It’s that time of year where the East Meadow Public Library goes above and beyond its original duties and helps out as a part of the Great Give Back.
The Oct. 15 Great Give Back is a community service initiative created by the Suffolk County Public Library Directors Association and the Suffolk Cooperative Library system, in conjunction with the Nassau Library System.
Since the initiative’s founding in 2017, it has expanded to every county in New York with the projects and goals of each library varying from year to year.
Libraries all across both counties come up with a way to give back to the community, whether it’s different in-person events, or different drives and collections for local charities. Some plan activities on the specific day — Oct. 15 — while others, like EMPL, collect all month long, from Oct. 1 to 28.
EMPL has been part of the Great Give Back since its founding, said Jude Schanzer, the director of public relations and programming at the library.
“We’re part of the community,” Schanzer said. “We’re the hub of the community. This library is actually the geographic center of East Meadow, and East Meadow is the geographic center of Nassau, so what better a hub?”
This year, the library picked Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless children and their families celebrate birthdays. They offer two types of party programs, where they either throw a party for a child at their shelter, or they provide a birthday in a box with supplies and gifts — everything a parent would need to throw their child a party.
Birthday Wishes was founded in 2002 in Massachusetts. Now, the organization serves children living in more than 200 family shelters and transitional living facilities across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Long Island. According to its website, over 26,000 homeless children, up to 17 years old, will experience a Birthday Wishes party each year.
EMPL is collecting the following unopened items for Birthday Wishes: juice boxes, themed-small packs of plates and napkins, packs of party hats, balloons, streamers, blowers, new fuzzy blankets, new pajamas size 18 months to size 14/16, and 24-count unopened crayon packs.
“We’re here to serve the public,” Schanzer said. “What better way to keep doing that than going beyond our traditional services?”
Schanzer is never surprised by how much is collected each year, because the East Meadow community is always so generous. “The birthday thing is always a big thing,” she said. “People love to put birthday boxes together.”
The library picked Birthday Wishes because “it’s a cool organization and other people in the neighborhood are involved in it,” Paula DeVito, the head of youth services for the library said.
“It’s fun to go shopping for birthday supplies and things like that knowing that the kids are not going to get it if we don’t,” she added. “It’s always great to collect items for local organizations and local people.”
Teens can also earn two hours of community service for every bag of supplies they bring in. The kids and teens also help wrap the boxes before they head off to their respective child, DeVito said.
“It’s great to get the kids involved because they need community service, so we’re fulfilling that need for them,” she said. “But they also feel good because they’re helping children who don’t have as much as they have.”
In the past, the library took part in other community service projects for the Great Give Back like collecting supplies for troops, baking and selling goods in order to sponsor needy East Meadow families for the holidays, coloring a smile to give to people who need a smile, and creating crafts to donate to local nursing homes.
The library gives back beyond the GGB Birthday Wishes drive. There are efforts to collect lunch box snacks for the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless for school children. This year there were supply drives for families in war-torn Ukraine and there was a collection of baby formula for those in need.
Anyone who is interested in donating supplies to the library for the Great Give Back or for the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, bring supplies during library hours.