When Anthony Harris of Riverhead organized Thanksgiving turkey giveaways in past years, he typically stockpiled between 75 and 100 turkeys for local families in need.
For this year’s event — scheduled 4 p.m. Saturday — there will be 125 turkeys along with baskets of canned foods.
“I feel like more people are going to be in need with everything going on,” Mr. Harris said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity and local food banks have been struggling to keep up with demand. The chance to earn a free meal will go a long way this year, said Mr. Harris, who is the founder of a clothing company called LIR Clothing.
Mr. Harris transformed this year’s event into a drive-through to maintain safety for everyone involved. He partnered with Bright and Early Discoveries, the preschool learning center in Riverhead, where the giveaway will take place. (It’s located at 608 Northville Turnpike).
“They’re like a community-based business and they have a lot of families that come there for daycare, that’s why I really wanted to team up with them and do something positive,” he said. “I feel like we can do something good together with everything going on with COVID.”
Mr. Harris said it’s a team effort to put the giveaway together. He orders the turkeys about two months in advance, and other volunteers help with purchasing vegetables and sides. He said there’s been a big response this year of people reaching out wishing to help, whether it be donating a turkey or other food. He also has the help of his two young sons, ages 6 and 2.
“I just like to help,” he said. “I’m blessed to be able to help people.”
Mr. Harris also organizes a Christmas giveaway event — which is tentatively set for Dec. 19 this year at the same location — and a back-to-school event in late summer.
The Thanksgiving giveaway has been a success in prior years, he said. This will be the fourth year he’s hosted it. In prior years, people have lined up as much as an hour before the start time to receive the meal.
On top of running his clothing line, Mr. Harris also works for PSEG Long Island. His clothes can be found in a number of stores, including at EPIC Jeans Outlet at Riverhead’s Tanger Outlets. He said there should be some winter clothes available there soon.
Another Thanksgiving giveaway is scheduled for Friday, Riverhead Town announced this week.
National Grid chose the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead as recipient of 135 Thanksgiving family meals as part of their Community Giving Day. The giveaway will take place starting at 11 a.m. at St. John’s Church at 546 St. John’s Place in Riverhead.
Local officials will be on hand along with volunteers from National Grid and the North Fork Spanish Apostolate to unload, pre-pack and distribute meals to local families pre-registered with the Apostolate.
“This year has been particularly challenging for our community,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said in a press release. “There has been a substantial increase in families needing assistance, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful to National Grid for recognizing this growing need and making it possible for 135 families to enjoy a traditional holiday meal with their families this Thanksgiving.”
The North Fork Spanish Apostolate can be reached at (631) 369-4601.
On Monday, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon and members of the Sheriff’s Office will be handing out Thanksgiving turkeys and dinner baskets to local nonprofits for families in need as part of their third annual Thanksgiving Food Drive.