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Long Islanders Give Thanks and Feed Less Fortunate Neighbors

Waiting for a Thanksgiving feast in Queens

Once again natural food chef Bhavani Jaroff of served up a Thanksgiving Feast in conjunction with the River Fund, for several hundred of the less fortunate people on Long Island.

Bhavani(L) cooks with friends and volunteers

She was joined by her dedicated group of volunteers as well as some newbies to prepare the food at her home on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

3 cases of green beans get prepped

The group transported the feast to Queens on Tuesday, Nov 23rd where a line snaked around the park with many waiting over an hour for their Thanksgiving meal.  For Bhavani (a vegetarian) having 45 turkeys carved in her living room is not the most pleasant experience but she keeps a smile and even boils all of the carcasses to make homemade soup for the Riverfund to distribute. Bhavani has been bringing her delicious food for well over 15 years and word has gotten out in the neighborhood that what she serves up is something that you don’t want to miss. Bhavani makes sure that everything is fresh and homemade.

Bhavani (in orange) preps, cooks, serves and cleans up for hundreds in need

One volunteer told how she was asked to scrub the potatoes  instead of peeling them so that the folks who are served realize that they are getting fresh mashed potatoes and not from a box.   In fact the menu is far from simple.  For example, the stuffing is loaded with fresh pecans and apples and the cranberry sauce is made with whole organic cranberries and walnuts. Its all of the little things Bhavani does that makes a huge difference in this yearly tradition for the people who come for this special meal.  Because many of the same faces show up every year it is a bittersweet experience for the volunteers. They have watched those needy 2 year olds grow up to be needy 17 year olds. As Bhavani said, “ we are not fixing the problem, just alleviating the need for a day.”  With this in mind, she also collects

Donations of warm clothing go fast

winter coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, boots, blankets, tote bags, and toiletries to be distributed.  These items are the most sought after and it is difficult to restrict people to one item when they ask to bring some home for other family members or when there are no more jackets in their size.  With hundreds waiting on line, only those who are there are allowed an item. The men seem to have the most difficult time finding a suitable jacket for cold weather as there are not as many donations for them as for the women and children.  There is never enough to go around and this year was hard as some left empty handed.

Lots of hot cider served here

All in all Bhavani and her many volunteers served up:

  • Countless cups of hot cider
  • 45 Turkeys,
  • 200 lbs. of potatoes,
  • 170 lbs. of sweet potatoes,
  • 3 cases of string beans,
  • Cranberry Sauce,
  • Pecan Apple Stuffing,
  • Buttermilk biscuits and
  • 48 Homemade Pumpkin Pies

Everyone is also given a grocery bag of potatoes and carrots to bring home

Bhavani is humbled and appreciative of all of the help she gets.  She recalls years ago when she stood freezing outside of supermarkets with cash in hand that she would give to people who were spending a certain amount on groceries to qualify for discounted turkeys.  She would give them the money to purchase the turkey for her.  Some people thought that she was crazy but others would help her and then she would spend long days cooking all of the turkeys. Things have gotten a bit easier as now local businesses commit to a yearly donation of supplies and many neighbors drop off pre-cooked turkeys.  Bhavani would like to thank this year’s  (many are recurring donations) generous business donors:

  • Jericho Cider Mill donated 3 cases of Apple Cider
  • Whole Foods in Jericho donated 2 cases of organic fresh cranberries
  • A to Z Party Rental donated thermal caddies food warmers
  • Intercounty Bakers’ in Lindenhurst donated 2 cases of pie shells
  • Kitchen Kabaret in Roslyn donated 100 lbs of string beans
  • Johns Market in Plainview donated 100lbs of potatoes
  • Men’s and Women’s Real Estate Association donated $6,000 to purchase over 40 turkeys
  • St. Aiden’s Church donated 6 coupons for turkeys
  • Milleridge Inn donated a case of butter
  • And the Brotherhood from Temple Beth David in Commack, gave their annual support in a coat drive

Local businesses donations

For more information on the River Fund NY, or to make a tax exempt donation, please go to their website. They are located at 89-11 Lefferts Blvd., Richmond Hill, NY 11418.

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