Winter’s first snowfall coated the streets with slush and ice on Monday. While most Long Islanders could put on a pair of gloves, or change their socks if they got wet, many others were left to face the elements without such protection.
When the temperature drops, demand for socks and gloves spikes at the Mary Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network, said Dana Lopez, the organization’s director of marketing and communications. Todd Weinstein, 48, of East Meadow, who works in the furniture business, had that trend in mind as he was thinking of a way to help others this holiday season.
Weinstein has organized a school-supplies drive for the Mary Brennan INN for the past three years. He read an online article from CBS News on Nov. 13 titled, “As Winter Arrives, Socks Becoming An Essential Need For City’s Homeless Population,” and shared his thoughts with Lopez.
“I was thrilled to hear from him about what he wanted to do,” Lopez said. “As you can imagine, guests are coming in now after trudging in the cold and rain, and their socks are wet . . . and gloves are always getting lost or forgotten as the seasons change.”
When the INN opened in 1983, it served hot meals to those in need. Over the years it has expanded to accept nonperishable food, clothes and school supplies. Most people, Lopez noted, don’t realize how much socks and gloves are in demand, and therefore don’t donate them as much as they do other items.
The CBS article highlighted a Manhattan resident named Brent Henry, who understood the need because he was once homeless. Henry began a sock drive called Operation Foot Work this month, and plans to send his donations to the New York City Coalition for the Homeless.
Weinstein will send his donations to Operation Foot Work and the Mary Brennan INN. He named his drive #EM2020VISION, and he hopes to collect 2,020 pairs of socks and gloves.
“The response East Meadow has toward helping others is incredible,” Weinstein said. “I might be the group’s organizer, but it’s a community effort, and everyone seems to rally behind these causes.”
Weinstein’s philanthropy began when he started a Facebook page three years ago called “Nice Things That Happen in East Meadow,” to counteract the rude comments and harsh arguments that often pit neighbor against neighbor on the social media site, he said.
The page quickly evolved into a conduit for charitable causes when Ben Diamond, 50, of East Meadow, a friend of Weinstein’s, encouraged him to host a school-supplies drive for the Mary Brennan INN.
“It’s pretty amazing what he’s done,” Diamond said of Weinstein. “I may have given him the idea, but the execution is all him. It’s fantastic that he was able to turn it into this huge annual event each year.”
Now the “Nice Things” Facebook group has over 2,600 members who support Weinstein’s fundraisers and drives, and share personal causes and charitable efforts. “I’m really proud of my fellow townspeople, and how they have reacted and accepted and embraced it,” Diamond said. “It gives me a really great feeling about East Meadow and the community.”
Weinstein is also accepting monetary donations. He plans to dress as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and use the funds to buy still more socks and gloves, while live-streaming the experience on his Facebook page.
“He’s one of the East Meadow citizens who is constantly organizing and helping people,” said Janet Goldstein, 58, from East Meadow, who is a member of Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh with Weinstein. “Once he puts something out there, there’s always a group of us that get involved.”
Goldstein added that she felt a personal connection to the cause because she volunteers once a month to cook and serve food at the Bethany House in Hempstead, a homeless shelter for women affected by domestic violence.
She also volunteers at the Last Hope Animal Shelter in Wantagh. Weinstein, she said, was her inspiration.
Those looking to donate to #EM2020VISION can send donations to 902 Shari Lane in East Meadow before Christmas Eve. Weinstein also asks that participants take photos with their contributions and post them on his Facebook page.
“A lot of people are camera-shy and don’t want to make it about them,” he said. “But I think it encourages others to donate. You never know what’s going to inspire somebody until it does.”