Families and city residents were able to take home a turkey or ham, fresh produce, canned goods and other small goods as part of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center’s (NAUC) Thanksgiving Distribution event; 540 turkeys and 280 hams went over the course of several hours on Monday, November 20.
During the brisk Monday afternoon, several hours before the 4 p.m. start time, families and individuals gathered in advance and lined up along the inside of Chris Hawkins Field, patiently waiting for the doors to open to the Larkin Center to receive fresh food.
As residents and families walked in one by one, U.S. Marine Corps member Shawn Garcia helped distribute tickets out to the families who either wanted turkey or ham for their meal. The tickets would be given to the person who was handling that specific station when ready.
Garcia, who is originally from Kissimmee, Florida, was grateful to help out the Newburgh community, as he does not get much time to enjoy the holidays due to his military commitments. Reflecting on his community back in Florida, he recalls that he did not see much community engagement or service, whereas in Newburgh on that specific day, he was very happy to help out.
“Communities like these are often the best, the most tight-knit, you know, so I love, I love seeing everyone coming together and volunteering, helping out,” he said. “I know a lot of people don’t get to eat three meals a day. So it is a blessing that they get to come here and get something to eat and, you know, feed their families.”
In the Larkin Center prior to start time, NAUC Director of Operations Max Cuacuas led D.A.F.T. (Dandelions Are Flowers Too) students, other members of the U.S. Marine Corps and other volunteers in setting up distribution lines with goods waiting to be handed off. Produce bags were packed, tables were set and service booths with community information and resources were also made available.
For students Kaylee Alvarado, Serenity Carter and Zamir Coddington, all 11 years old, each of them was happy to be a part of an event like this, to help their community however possible.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing because there’s some people out here that are struggling that don’t have food for Thanksgiving,” said Carter. “So I think it’s a great thing that we’re donating all this food to people that don’t have food.”
Each of them helped over the course of the event to hand out food and helped with the setup to make the event run smoothly. As the doors opened, people with bags in hand stopped by each of the tables to grab food and expressed thanks to those who served them.
“I like to see when people go and grab things, I like that and that makes me feel accomplished, that like, I put something there and someone grabbed it,” said Alvarado. “Be grateful for anything you get in life, because one day you might not have it.”
With the Thanksgiving holiday drawing closer, it was a positive experience to be able to serve and help wherever possible. “It feels great. I feel grateful and also thankful for doing this and letting us do this,” said Coddington. “I think it’s really a good opportunity to do this. I’m grateful for being able to help people.”
For this distribution event, it was made possible through NAUC, Cornerstone Family Healthcare, Healthfirst, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley Inc, Catholic Charities and the Kaplan Family Foundation.