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Volunteers distribute 135 Thanksgiving meals donated by National Grid

For Thanksgiving, Sister Margaret Smyth usually provides a hot dinner for around 300 people on behalf of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recent spike in infections locally forced her to call off the event. She considered organizing takeout meals, but that proved to be equally complicated amid the pandemic.

It’s part of the reason National Grid selected the Riverhead-based organization to receive 135 Thanksgiving meals as part of their community giving day and for that, Sister Margaret said she’s thankful.

“We’re doing [Thanksgiving] in a different way,” she said.

Volunteers from the apostolate joined with National Grid employees, Town supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Councilwoman Catherine Kent and other town hall staff to pack and distribute the bags of holiday food during a drive at St. John’s Church in Riverhead Friday.

“This year has been particularly challenging for our community,” Ms. Aguiar said, noting that the pandemic worsened existing food instability issues in the community as people were laid off or lost jobs during the initial economic shutdown.

“Many people have lost their jobs, and we thought [the North Fork Spanish Apostolate] were one of the most deserving groups,” she said.

Ms. Kent also expressed gratitude to National Grid for recognizing the North Fork Spanish Apostolate. “Sister Margaret is one of the most generous, hard working and giving people in our entire community,” she said.

Ms. Aguiar, on behalf of the town board, presented National Grid with a proclamation thanking them for the donation Friday.

She also said the governor’s office helped to supply 300 cloth masks and hand sanitizer to be handed out to families along with Thanksgiving dinner. She warned earlier this week that Riverhead was approaching micro-cluster status due to a rising infection rate.

Sister Margaret said further shutdowns could impact families already struggling at this time of year. At the height of the pandemic, their food pantry was supplying nearly 1,000 families every month.

“As it opened up a little bit and people went back to work, they became independent,” she said.