Gratitude is at the heart of the holiday and the people there.
“I feel so fortunate. I have a great family. I don’t really want for anything,” said volunteer Lisa Jimenez.
Sharing the love is why Jimenez joined hundreds cooking and packing meals for veterans, the elderly and families in need.
“When I sit around my Thanksgiving table with my family, they’re not far from my mind,” said Jimenez.
“I’m just here trying to help the community,” said Peter Gaffney, of Centereach.
“We’ve had about 800 volunteers here the past couple days and we’re assembling 15,000 Thanksgiving dinners,” said Chef Ryan Carroll,.
Carroll is the man behind the mission, turning the Massapequa Fire Department into a distribution center of sorts. He said everything is made from scratch, but the main ingredient is generosity.
“We got a grant through the Kiwanis Children Foundation, but mostly from donations from the community,” said Carroll.
A recent study from Giving USA found total giving decreased for the first time in decades in 2022. Americans gave 1.7% of their personal disposable incomes to charity – the least since 1995.
It follows the two best years on record as many chipped in during the COVID pandemic.
“During COVID, a lot of people donated and it has been slowly decreasing over time,” said Carroll.
That’s when Carroll started his nonprofit after losing his job. He was inspired by his 90-year-old Nan.
“They can’t leave their house to get meals. So I think it’s very important to bring the meal to them,” said Carroll.
This year, meals for veterans come with handwritten cards, a special way of saying “Happy Thanksgiving.”
When he reflects on what he’s thankful for, Carroll said it’s for all the people packing meals and the Long Island community who make it possible.
The meals will be going to homes, soup kitchens and other nonprofits that Carroll’s Kitchen teamed up with.