Lending a hand, a turkey at a time

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Members of the East Meadow Fire Department joined elected leaders and Stew Leonard’s employees outside the supermarket on Nov. 18 to help give out more than 40 boxes of turkeys.

This is the fifth year that Stew Leonard’s has provided Thanksgiving dinners for the food-insecure. Cars and trucks lined up in the store’s parking lot waiting to pull up to the building to receive their turkey donations.

Stew Leonard’s started its tradition of donating turkeys to charities and local organizations near its supermarkets in 1979. The East Meadow location opened in 2017, and the store has continued the tradition ever since.

“This started back in the original store,” Joe Vota, vice president of operations for Stew Leonard’s, said. “We like to be a part of the community, be family-based, and there’s a lot of great people in East Meadow, a lot of great residents.”

Many Stew Leonard’s workers live in East Meadow, and the store loves to help them, Vota said.

“We get a great reception,” he said. “We like to work with the churches, and a lot of these people are our customers as well and love to help out.”

Charities can apply to be beneficiaries of the turkey giveaway, but others were selected after a representative of Stew Leonard’s called them and asked if they needed help with stocking their food pantries.

“When the organizations are selected, we try to fit the number of turkeys they need the best we can,” Vato said. “We base it off of the need.”

Thanksgiving is a great time to put an emphasis on those in need of food but the need is constant, said Christine Schulz, the treasurer and long-time member of Calvary Lutheran Church in East Meadow.

“It’s very generous on Stew Leonard’s part,” she said. “It helps a lot of families. A turkey can feed a family for a few days.”

Calvary Lutheran Church has taken part in the turkey donation since Stew Leonard’s came to East Meadow.

“It’s a very nice donation from them,” Schulz said. “What they do as an outreach to the community is even better. It’s heartfelt.”

The 15 turkeys they received will be given to the Lutheran Social Services center in Uniondale, now known as the LIFE Center.

“During this time, there are a lot of people and organizations in need, and I think this is a wonderful program in order to make this a better Thanksgiving for some people,” Legislator Tom McKevitt, of East Meadow, said. “I was thrilled to be there.”

This is the third year that the East Meadow Fire Department has participated. “It’s a great way to give back to the community,” John A. Priest, captain of Engine Company 1, said.

Jim Kane, the East Meadow fire inspector, said participating in the turkey giveaway is a great way to get to know the community. “It gets us to connect with them for public safety information,” he said, “as well as assisting with whatever their needs may be.”

More than 200 turkeys were donated locally to roughly 20 organizations, such as nonprofits, food pantries, churches and PTA’s near Stew Leonard’s. In total, the company distributed 3,000 turkeys throughout the tri-state area.

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