Collecting For Giving

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Bethpage Turkey Drive helps families in need to have a Thanksgiving meal

 

Since the first Bethpage Turkey Drive was organized in 2009, hundreds of community volunteers have come out to assist in the collection of more than 31,000 turkeys and over 116,000 pounds of food, which were then given to Long Island families facing hardship in time for the holidays. (Photo courtesy of Island Harvest)

Thanksgiving is a time for spending time with the family, having a nice hearty meal and being thankful for the people and things in your life. For some, this is something that they can only wish for as they spend each day not knowing where their next meal may come from.
“Thousands of families are dealing with stressful situations that is making their household food insecure,” Randi Shubin Dresner, president of Island Harvest, said. “Maybe they are dealing with an illness, an accident, underemployment and there’s lots of stresses in their home. On top of that, everybody else in the world is having a nice holiday meal and many [with food insecurity] don’t feel like they can participate and do what everyone else is doing.”
That’s why the annual Bethpage Turkey Drive has become such an important event for Island Harvest. Run by Bethpage Federal Credit Union (BFCU), the 11th iteration on Friday, Nov. 22, brings forth another opportunity for citizens to bring in turkey and other goods that could help those in need have a meal for the holiday.
“I had suggested to Randi that we give [a turkey drive] a shot,” Linda Armyn, BFCU senior vice president of corporate strategy, said. “We had been successful with doing other drives in the past and we figured we would give it a try. The first year was actually one of our best years. It was actually in a nor’easter, but we collected about 4,000 turkeys.”

Every year since, the event has been able to collect more than 2,300 turkeys for every drive, with some drives pushing to that 4,000 amount. The first few iterations had more of a festival-like atmosphere with multiple booths for people to hang out during the drive. In recent years, however, it has become more of a focus on the collection aspect, with Armyn developing an idea to create drive-thru lanes for people to come through and drop off what they can in a way that is easier for all.
“It was kind of a logical next step because there were cars lined up and things were getting a little crazy,” Dresner said. “The team at BFCU are absolutely incredible and their involvement in this drive from the top all the way down has made it probably the most efficient food drive anywhere, bar none.”

“It’s a big part of who we are,” Armyn said. “We don’t like to support things just with money. We also like to create an impact in the community. By partnering with Island Harvest, we know that the food will be redistributed within a few days after the drive and will be on people’s tables that need it.”
Island Harvest helps 300,000 people every year and has a distribution network of 400 food pantries, soup kitchens and other feeding programs throughout Long Island.

Bethpage Junior Fire Fighters are among many community groups that participate in the drive. (Photo courtesy of Island Harvest)

Other organizations involved with the turkey drive include PSEG Long Island, who notifies its customers about the event and has sent down volunteers, as well as Altice, who also promoted the event and donated turkeys. In addition, Northwell Health will have a presence at the drive, providing blood pressure testing for those who attend.
But what really makes the event is the effort by many members of the community, from local businesses to Scout troops, to come together and support a worthy cause.
“There is certainly large companies who come and make donations, but there’s also a ton of everyday people who come by and donate,” Armyn said. “You can’t get thousands and thousands of turkeys without this being a full community effort.”

Dresner says that over the years people have said how they always wanted to help out for the holiday season and now, they have something that is easy for people to contribute to.
“It’s given people the opportunity to learn about giving back and teach their children about that culture of giving,” Dresner said. “The other important part of it is that there’s people who are hungry all year-round. This is not just people who miss one meal or miss lunch. Food insecurity is not knowing where your next healthy meal is going to come from and when. That’s tough for a lot of families, but because we have this drive, we’re really making a big impact on Long Island.”

The 11th annual Bethpage Turkey Drive will be held on Friday, Nov. 22, at BFCU’s headquarters at 899 South Oyster Bay Rd. in Bethpage, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. As part of the partnership with the New York Jets, legendary receiver Wayne Chrebet will be present to help collect food items.

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