This week, just two days before Thanksgiving, a man approached the tiny pantry in front of Cutchogue New Suffolk Library. Opening the doors, he saw there were not many canned or boxed food items left for people to pick up.
He went to his car and returned with a paper bag full of groceries — canned green beans, boxes of pasta and various soups. What he brought filled the pantry up again.
Numerous small curbside pantries are scattered across the North Fork where people can drop off food items for others in need, no questions asked. The notices on many of them say the same thing: “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
These pantries reflect a community that cares for the well-being of others. We are better because of this. Not long after the man replenished the pantry by the library, an older woman pulled up, looked over what was available and took what she needed. It is no exaggeration to say her life, and perhaps her family’s, will be better this Thanksgiving because of this one pantry.
Across the North Fork, many places also offer full meals to those in need. The Bread and More soup kitchen at First Congregational Church of Riverhead feeds those in need three nights a week.
A reporter who visited the kitchen a few weeks ago found a handful of volunteers preparing a very good dinner for dozens of people waiting outside to enter — including a number of young children.
On Thanksgiving, as it has done for years, Church of the Harvest in Riverhead will also offer a full dinner to anyone who walks in. Meals will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A reporter who volunteered there at a previous Thanksgiving found the people who came were mostly senior citizens, day workers and their families, all grateful to have a great meal.
In Southold, the Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation has been supporting low-income families and individuals since 1965 with not only a food pantry, but emergency assistance and educational programs as well. As of 2022, CAST has served 900 unique families, comprising 2,265 individuals. They included 864 children and 124 seniors.
Just three years ago, the Maureen’s Haven emergency overnight winter shelter program offered about 3,400 beds at various locations across the East End. But the need has surged, and last winter the program provided 6,400 beds in the five East End towns.
Knowing seniors and children will be fed, knowing people who need a place to sleep on a cold night can find one, speaks volumes about the core of good people who live in our communities. We are hugely grateful to them. They make all of us better.
They also provide a wonderful, hopeful counterpoint to the horrific events that now seem to occur every day. On Thanksgiving, a day of gratitude , we choose to focus on the good people.