Despite the difficulties businesses have faced during the pandemic, some, such as Toast Coffeehouse in Patchogue, have continued to divert their attention and resources to the betterment of their community. Toast owner Terry Scarlatos and his employees regularly host events where people in the community can come for a free meal in a nice restaurant.
On Tuesday March 30, the restaurant hosted a soup kitchen event equipped to serve over 100. During a normal year, the restaurant hosts “Toast-giving,” a Thanksgiving event where locals who are in need of a free or cheap meal can dine in. With the pandemic, it was a challenge to organize similar events while balancing precautions. Yet, Toast’s owners and staff prevailed since they were eager to help their community.
The recent event was an opportunity for underprivileged members of the community to dine in or take out. They had a choice between two meals: a meatloaf dinner or vegetarian chili. The menu was designed to provide “comfort food” and anyone in attendance was welcome to have seconds. Between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m., the event provided meals for around 150 people. Most guests chose the takeout option to maximize safety, but those who chose to dine in were treated with servers who provided drinks. Not only did the event provide a meal for the attendees, but it also gave them a positive experience: the enjoyment of eating a meal in a nice restaurant. Hosting such an event at a restaurant can also prevent some of the stigma associated with getting a meal at a soup kitchen or church.
“A lot of these people are not afforded the opportunity to sit in a restaurant; they get to feel like they are having an evening out,” said Melissa Reinheimer, Toast’s operations manager who helped organize the event.
To make the event a success, the restaurant had to partner with local organizations to reach at-risk communities. Harmony Café, which has worked with Toast in the past, helped coordinate with nearby soup kitchens and churches. Their own organization provides a number of food services on a pay-what-you-can model.
The founder of Harmony Café, Rosemarie McCarthy, said she appreciates working with Toast because of their generosity and positive environment. The restaurant also reached out to the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce for help spreading the word.
“I thought this was a great concept where someone could just grab a meal... we used social media and email to get the word out,” said chamber executive director David Kennedy.
To volunteer at an event, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (631) 654-7091. For more information about Harmony Café and the wonderful work they do, visit https://www.harmonycafeli.org, or call (631) 372-0227, and stay tuned for their upcoming events/programs.