The New York Islanders are known throughout Long Island as a team that shows tremendous support to the community. But while the team is currently away on a seven day, West Coast road trip, someone needed to continue the organization’s tradition of volunteer work in their absence. Filling in for the players were their significant others, as Allison Weight (Doug Weight’s wife) and Moa Sljoander (Frans Nielsen
’s girlfriend) helped out at The Mary Brennan Inn Soup Kitchen in nearby Hempstead.
The Mary Brennan Inn was founded in 1983 as a single soup kitchen run by a small group of concerned volunteers. Today, there are a total of 19 soup kitchens operating as part of "The Inn’s" network across Long Island. More than 5,500 people are fed each week throughout the network and in the Hempstead location alone, over 500 meals are prepared daily.
The "Lady Islanders" have donated their time at the Inn, in years past. Sljoander actually used the experience to help her write one of her term papers going towards her degree.
"I like to come to this event because we get to help other people," Sljoander said.
The Inn has seen an increase in the amount of meals served per day throughout the years. While currently they prepare between 400 and 500 meals per day, back in 2001 they were only producing about 150 a day. With the increase in traffic, the philosophy has changed at The Inn as well. Guests used to be encouraged to be come in, have a hot meal and rest up for the day, but now due to the long lines that sometimes stretch along the walls at The Inn, people are asked to finish their meals, return their tray, and make room for the next group of hungry patrons.
Marilyn Miller is the Manager of Volunteers and Donations, and said that there are approximately 150 regular volunteers at the Inn, but lots of other groups and organizations help out as well.
"The guests that come in each night for a meal really take care of the place," Miller said. "If we set rules, the guests abide by the rules, and that really helps."
To make the Islanders volunteers even more important, Miller spoke of the unfortunate phone call the morning of the event saying that several of her usual volunteers had called out sick so the timing was perfect.
"The minute they walked in I put them straight to work in the kitchen," Miller said with a laugh. "They have been great and it has been a blessing to have them here today.
Weight and Sljoander donned their hat, gloves and aprons, and immediately started rationing out gallons of chocolate pudding into individual containers. After the meal was prepared, they helped serve the guests their meal, which for many in attendance might be the only one of the day.
Miller said that it takes 20-25 volunteers to run the Inn each day. Along with the kitchen, there is a clothing room, pantry, and showers. The Inn provides close to 50 showers a day, and also collects clothes and other food to be distributed to the guests. Guests can sign up for showers at The Inn, and along with the hot shower, they will be given a bag that has travel size cleaning supplies, along with fresh socks and underwear.
"We’re glad to give back to the community that supports the team and it is just a lovely group of people that volunteer here. It’s a very fulfilling feeling."
Weight explained that the wives and girlfriends try to do community work two or three times a year, but with their husbands/boyfriends traveling so much, it makes it tricky to get together but they make it a priority to do so.
"This is a great experience because not only are we giving back to the community but it is a bonding experience for the girls," Weight said.
If you would like the Islanders to support your community outreach program, contact the team’s Community Relations Department at (516) 501-6700 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org