By Joy Yang
Rotary Club of Great Neck member Jeff Jardine quoted the late musician and humanitarian Harry Chapin, giving volunteers at the Thanksgiving turkey drive on Nov. 18 much to think about. “Enough air in this world, many times over. Enough water in this world, many times over. Enough food in this world, many times over. So why are there still people hungry?”
In an effort to provide Thanksgiving dinner for more than 1,000 area families in need, volunteers bagged numerous food items, including a sack of potatoes, a bag of carrots, turkey stuffing mix, a can of corn, mixed vegetables, green beans, cranberry sauce and oatmeal creme pies, in an assembly line around the room. Then, they carried the bags outside and into a truck that would be delivering the food.
This is the 29th year the Rotary Club has been organizing this event, and the number of volunteers grows every year. More than 100 volunteers showed up to contribute to this cause and many were kids in grades K to 12.
Claire Luo, a ninth grader at Great Neck North High School, and her little sister, Rachel Luo, a kindergartener at Saddle Rock Elementary School, thought the event was a “wholesome volunteering experience.”
Kenneth Lee, a seventh grader at Great Neck South Middle School, came because he “wanted to help the community and be thankful.”
Even the drivers of the trucks delivering the food were volunteers.
Roger Chizever, chairman of the Rotary Club committee that organizes the food drive, said that the turnout was very good. He explained that the bags of food would be driven to multiple organizations, which would be handing them out to the needy.
“We plan to provide to 1,200 families,” he said, while flipping a page on the sign-in clipboard.
Robbie Donno, a member of the Manhasset Rotary Club, has been participating in this event for 25 to 30 years. He explained that the Manhasset Rotary Club and the Great Neck Rotary Club used to have separate events, but they partnered in order to lower the costs so that more families could benefit from this program. The event “gives volunteers a sense of joy,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Xin Feng, a member of the Great Neck Chinese Association (GNCA) and the Rotary Club, has been part of this event for three years. He brought his little daughter, Kaitlyn, to help out this year.
The turkey drive is “such a wonderful event to give back to the community,” said Feng, who introduced the event to GNCA members and encouraged many individuals to join.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Alice Ngai-Tsang, who heard about the event from GNCA and switched days off at work so she would be able to come and help.
“It’s a good thing to give back to the community, especially with kids,” said Jane Zhang, a second-year volunteer who also learned of the turkey drive from GNCA and brought her daughter Arianna to help this year.
Jardine, the Rotary Club member who quoted Harry Chapin, has been part of this event for 18 years. While he directed the busy, fast-moving line of volunteers, he explained that the turkey drive used to provide food for only five families—and, this year, it aims to serve 1,200 families.
Everyone enjoyed putting together “1,200 packages of love,” noted Jardine.
Not only did the volunteers love doing it, but so will all the receivers of the bags of food.
To donate to next year’s Thanksgiving drive, visit www.rotaryclubofgreatneck.org or mail a contribution to Rotary Club of Great Neck, PO Box 220019, Great Neck, NY 11022.
Read more about the event here.
Joy Yang is an eighth-grade student at Great Neck South Middle School.