Feeding a need for services

Marion & Aaron Gural JCC Sustenance Center in Cedarhurst to open in December

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On Nov. 9, workmen continued to string electrical wires across the ceiling of what will be the new Marion & Aaron Gural JCC Sustenance Center in Cedarhurst in the Maple Plaza Mall.

Although ladders stood where clients will be in a few weeks, and a few decisions remain — such as which direction the food shopping aisles should point — the center is expected to open in December. It will serve as a place for people in need to “shop” for food, receive an array of services and pick out seasonal clothes from four separate bins and dressier apparel for job interviews from closets along the south wall.

The 3,000-square-foot space, formerly the home to the Owl 57 Gallery, is planned to be not only more than four times larger than the 700-square-foot kosher food pantry in Woodmere, but much more inviting as well. There will be a reception area where clients are welcomed before they can shop for food in three aisles and a refrigerated area for milk, fresh produce and other items not offered at the smaller, cramped kosher food pantry.

There will be three offices for on-staff social workers, who will provide counseling, and help guide clients to the services they require, and to offer information to connect on other organizations that help people.

“This will be a one-stop shop for food, clothing and job services,” said JCC Executive Director Joel Block. “We want to create a dignified environment where people can receive services with the respect we all deserve.”

The center will also have a least two computers that clients can use for job searches and to connect with other agencies they need. The food pantry currently serves 300 families, Block said. A small kitchenette with a sink and microwave will be stationed near the computers for clients to heat up a beverage or a small meal.

“The social workers will conduct one-on-one counseling, be the client’s emotional guide and offer referrals to other organizations,” said Stacey Feldman, the Gural JCC’s assistant director.

With Thanksgiving next week and Hanukkah and Christmas in sight, the Gural JCC will have two events to help clients and others capture the holiday spirit. On Nov. 19, there will be a holiday luncheon for the Long Island Friends Experience group at the Cedarhurst building and a communal Thanksgiving meal will be served on Thursday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m.. Registration is required. Contact (516) 569-6733 or cathy.byrne@guraljcc.org. The food pantry remains open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Gural JCC is also taking part in what is called Giving Tuesday. Powered by social media and collaboration, it is considered a day of giving back, and begins what is termed the charitable season, when people focus on their end-of-year giving.

“What we’re doing at the Gural JCC is having people sign in to volunteer and also donate items such as gaming systems for kids,” Feldman said.

Donors can purchase gift cards from a local store for the JCC’s social workers to distribute to clients. Donations can include new children’s pajamas or non-perishable food for the sustenance center. The Gural JCC is at 207 Grove Ave. in Cedarhurst. The phone number is (516) 569-6733.

Serving Thanksgiving meals

On Thanksgiving, Cedarhurst-based Rock and Wrap It Up! will hold its 27th annual holiday feast at St. John Baptist Church, at 7405 Rockaway Beach Blvd. in Rockaway Beach, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Franklin Early Childhood Center and Merrill Lynch in Hewlett, Bellmore-Merrick schools, scores of Five Towns eateries and individuals partner to donate the needed food and volunteers to serve more than 800 Thanksgiving meals.

“Rock and Wrap It Up! sets up a safe environment for both guests and volunteers to share the day,” said Syd Mandelbaum, the founder and CEO of the anti-poverty think tank. “Everyone is family and we encourage those who serve to sit with the patrons, reinforcing the loving aspect of Thanksgiving.”

To donate or help, contact (516) 295-0670 or www.rockandwrapitup.org.