On a cold and blustery Sunday morning, this past November 22, members of the Rotary Club of Great Neck along with community volunteers, packaged up bags of 1,200 delicious and nutritious family Thanksgiving dinners to distribute to local non-profit groups, churches, synagogues and their pantries. We all know the year 2020 has turned out to be a year like no other. Its effects have strained every aspect of our daily lives. “Food insecurity” has become a common topic. These two words have become major issues to many families that never had to ask for assistance with putting food on the dinner table.
This year is the 31st year of providing free Thanksgiving dinners for local families in need. The drive is in memory of Sal Berritto, a local businessman whose provision suppliers generously supported this event. This year, due to COVID-19, the usual location of a building at the US Merchant Marine Academy that was used to store all the food items was not available. Thanks to the generosity of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District and their board members, the water district equipment garages provided an excellent replacement. These large garages afforded an open air environment that provided for a safe and social distant event for the Rotary members and volunteers.
Roger Chizever, a longtime member of the Club has been the Chairperson and organizer of the event for the past 10 years. He stated that “our official motto of ‘service above self’ provided inspiration for me to oversee all the aspects of the drive. Members of the Rotary Club of Great Neck contribute their suggestions, time, energy and financial support to help make for this worthy cause in our neighborhood a huge success”. In early fall, Roger starts reaching out to local supermarkets and other vendors to purchase the large quantity of needed food items. The Rotary reaches out to members of the Great Neck community through ads in our community newspapers, email blasts and social media asking for donations to help support these purchases.
Local volunteers from the Great Neck Chinese Association, Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, Metropolitan Commercial Bank, Great Neck North Interact Club, St. John’s University, The Manhasset Rotary Club and Rotary District Governor Jackie Yonick collected all the non-perishable items into reusable shopping bags. Masks and social distancing were required of everyone participating throughout the morning. While Roger makes sure that the organizations receive the correct amount of frozen turkeys, Alycia Chizever, his “second in command”, made sure that all groups received the correct amount of food bags. All the food was packaged and distributed that morning to a growing number of local groups requesting assistance.
The turkeys, packaged stuffing, potatoes, fresh carrots, canned corn, peas, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy as well as desserts hopefully provided “a sense of normalcy to the Thanksgiving holiday”, said Roger. COVID-19 has transformed our society and has increased the numbers of families struggling financially, especially at holiday time. Most families will not be gathering with larger groups of families and friends, increasing the feeling of isolation. So this Thanksgiving dinner is even more important to those in need.
Each sponsorship of only $25 will provide food and leftovers for a family of six. Sponsorships continue throughout the year; if you wish to sponsor a family, a tax-deductible check may be sent to Rotary Club of Great Neck Foundation, PO Box 220019, Great Neck, NY 11022 or online at rotaryclubgreatneck.org