Nov. 23, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
An annual Thanksgiving food drive is taking place in western Queens as the need to help struggling families is greater than ever, organizers say.
Volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food items and other supplies throughout the month that will be dropped off at the Mosaic Food Pantry in Sunnyside during the first week of December.
The organizers, the Long Island City-Astoria Lions Club and the Hunters Point Civic Association (HPCA), are currently reaching out to residents in Queens and Manhattan to make donations.
Brent O’Leary, the president of the HPCA who started the initiative in 2013, said his group is dropping collection boxes in select apartment buildings in Queens and Manhattan, and encouraging residents to fill them up with food and other essential items.
Most of the buildings that are part of the initiative have doormen who are members of the Emerald Guild and the Hibernia Provident Society.
The food drive typically collects around 5,000 pounds of food and critical items. However, the volunteers, O’Leary said, face an uphill battle to match that amount this year due to COVID-19.
“It’s been a crazy year and there are fewer people occupying buildings so we’re not sure how much we’re going to get but we’ll do our best to take in as much in as possible,” O’Leary said.
Under the initiative, volunteers drop the boxes to around 40 apartment buildings– and residents then fill them up with donations. The drop-offs began last week and will run through Nov. 30.
About half of the participating buildings are located in Queens–including Long Island City, Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.
Residents typically donate canned meats and food, boxes of cereal, pasta, rice and peanut butter. Other items include toilet paper, shampoo, body wash, baby wipes, diapers and infant formula.
In previous years, the donated items were sent to St. Mary’s Church in Long Island City where dozens of volunteers from local groups would come together and sort them, before delivering them to several pantries in Long Island City and in Woodside.
However, this year–given all the COVID-19 restrictions– most of the items will be delivered and distributed to residents in need at the Mosaic Food Pantry, located at 46-01 43rd Ave. O’Leary helped set up the pantry in March to aid out-of-work residents to get through the shutdown. Some items will also be dropped off at Hour Children, a non-profit located at 36-11 12th St.
O’Leary said the Mosaic Food Pantry has grown in size due to unprecedented demand and around 1,400 people now use the pantry each week. The pantry operates every Monday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
He said residents of buildings looking to participate should request a box and make donations.
“It has been a challenging time for everyone but the need for food is more severe and we are appealing to people to give whatever they can.”
Collection boxes can be requested by contacting O’Leary via email at [email protected]. A contact name, building address, phone number and e-mail are required. Drivers are also being sought to drop off and pick up boxes.
People are also encouraged to make financial contributions by going to the Mosaic website. Then, under the giving tab, choose “COVID-19 Sunnyside Woodside Food Distribution” on the dropdown menu.