With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the season of giving is upon us. For our local nonprofit organizations and food pantries, this time of year is about providing local families in need with a little bit of holiday magic. For Debbie Loesch, founder of Angels of Long Island, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is no time to rest.
“I go really hard at Christmas time. I get stressed every year,” she said.
And that’s because Angels of Long Island hosts several community events providing coats, meals, and toys for children.
On Thanksgiving morning, the Angels are slated to host their annual Thanksgiving breakfast, providing a hot morning meal for 500 locals with the help of Carroll’s Kitchen, a North Bellmore-based nonprofit organization. Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a line that went down the street, the Angels ran out of food.
“Any year this is a time of giving, but last year was eye-opening because when COVID hit, there were so many devastated,” said Loesch.
For Loesch, the eye-opening part came when she realized that the people who normally donated to the Angels of Long Island thrift shop were now the ones in need of their services.
“People that came to me asking for help, those were the same people that donated in the past,” she said.
Below are upcoming Angels of Long Island events, each still in need of donations. Loesch encourages neighbors to donate because, unlike with big, national organizations, everything donated to Angels of Long Island goes to help the local community.
“There’s children in our own neighborhood that need help—and this all truly goes back into our schools, our neighborhoods, our community,” she said. “I always say: If you’re able to donate, do it—it feels good. We rely on the support of the community. We aren’t corporately funded. We don’t get grants. We run off the kindness of everyday Long Islanders.”
Donate a Thanksgiving basket
Needed: Thanksgiving dinner
For this event, participants are asked to assemble their own baskets and bring them down to Angels of Long Island to be given to a local family in need. The baskets should be filled with all of the fixings for a proper Thanksgiving dinner—canned yams, cranberries, boxed mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a gift certificate so the family can purchase a turkey or ham.
Needed: Coats, hats, scarves, gloves, blankets
The organization collects coats all year, but for this program they collect up until the last week in November. On a day in early December, they’ll set up clothing racks in the Angels of Long Island thrift shop parking lot and allow locals in need to choose coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and blankets—anything needed to stay warm this winter. This year, as in recent years, Loesch is requesting electric heaters and electric blankets. “It’s especially important for families with children. A lot of times, people will keep just one room in the house warm, and electric heaters do a good job of heating small spaces,” she said.
Christmas Toy Drive
Toys for children of all ages are requested up until the second weekend in December. Then, on Dec. 19, local families in need will be invited to pick out gifts for their children. “Part of the joy of Christmas is shopping for your own kids,” said Loesch.
That’s why she started this toy drive. During the event, parents enter a tent full of possible gifts—all donated by local Long Islanders, and all completely free to the family in need. In past years, the tent has been filled with kitchen sets, bikes, scooters, stocking stuffers, and more. Parents pick eight gifts for each of their children. Then they move onto the next tent, which is filled with baskets containing a full holiday meal, so the parent can give their family a home-cooked dinner on Christmas.
In the past, people have been creative in soliciting for toys, wrapping boxes in Christmas paper and putting them in their workplace. Loesch can also provide a box if needed.
“We can order boxes if they need. We put an Angels of Long Island sticker on it and it gets gift-wrapped,” she said.
All Year-Round Bottle Drive
Needed: Plastic bottles and cans
According to Loesch, one of the easiest ways to give back is to gather empty plastic water bottles and soda cans and donate them to Angels of Long Island. Since the pandemic, they’ve made $100,000 from discarded bottles and cans—a saving grace, since the pandemic left them $49,000 in debt.
“Save me your water bottles. Save me your soda cans. It’s such a simple way to give back,” she said.
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