Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the annual 3D’s Community Empowerment Center Thanksgiving dinner looked different this year.
Thirteen volunteers teamed up with the Baldwin center’s founder and executive director, Dr. Zodelia Williams, a social worker, to pack hot meals into individual boxes for a grab-and-go distribution to people in need in local housing facilities.
“We had to change the way we distributed the food, but made sure it was personable,” Williams said.
While she has hosted her Thanksgiving event for 15 years, this year was different in that it was a mobile effort. Volunteers packed the boxes into the center’s van and drove to four sites to drop them off.
Nearly 100 meals were packed and ready to go Thanksgiving morning, including salads, desserts and drinks. Additionally, gifts were placed in each box — masks and hand sanitizer, provided by Island Harvest, and signed copies of the book “I Know My Rights,” by Mysonne Linen, for the children.
Trays of catered food were delivered to 3D’s Community Empowerment Center, on Seaman Avenue, where volunteers packed individual boxes before loading them into the van. Local restaurants, including Benny B’s, Big Papa’s Soul Food and Delicious Moments, donated food.
Williams also thanked the Village Childcare Center for donating the box containers, water bottles and cutlery; the Division of Early Childhood Education of the New York City Department of Education for its monetary donation; Fabiana Cellini, owner of Fit and Fearless in Baldwin, and Baldwin resident Sara Hill for their monetary donations; and the parents who contributed.
Despite facing personal struggles this year, Williams said she knew she had to help, because too many families are experiencing food insecurity and financial troubles.
“We recognize that this time of year, many, many organizations are giving away free turkeys and free non-perishables and canned goods, and what happens if the person doesn’t have the facility to cook it?” Williams said. “I believe that everyone deserves to get a hot meal with a dessert, and a salad and a drink, and it should be personable, something that says that we see you when others are not seeing you.”
The van used to transport the meals was purchased by 3D’s earlier this year using a grant secured by State Assemblywoman Taylor Darling, whose district includes parts of Baldwin.
“We are having food drives incessantly, but a lot of people have forgotten about Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we still want to make sure we have those holidays taken care of,” Darling said. “I’m just elated to be able to provide a vehicle for them to be able to do things like this in our community.”
Darling was accompanied by two social work interns who assisted with the effort.
“We just want to make sure that people and children are receiving love today,” Darling said. “But the most important thing is that transportation is a barrier for a lot of people. You can have all the resources in the world, but if you can’t get the resources to people or people to the resources, then it’s like it’s not there.”
Williams explained that while 3D’s is in Baldwin, the center serves many other communities. For this event, she said, it was determined that the need was in Hempstead. The team drove to four temporary housing facilities in Hempstead and handed out the boxes of food.
“I know that yesterday’s event was successful based on the smiles on the faces of the community members that we served,” Williams said after the event. “They were thankful, they were smiling, they were excited, they were humble, and they were grateful.”