Several members of the New York Islanders staff volunteered their time Wednesday to help at the Mary Brennan INN Soup Kitchen in Hempstead. The volunteers prepared and served a Thanksgiving meal for over 250 guests, helped distribute winter clothing to those in need, and stocked incoming deliveries of food and clothing for the INN.
“All the guests here are enjoying the food,” said Community Relations Manager Ann Rina. “It’s a nice day for us to come and help out in the community. There’s so many people who are just going through tough times right now and they don’t have the money to put food in front of their families. For us to come down here and help out is heartwarming.”
Rina added that it was great to see the enthusiasm from the entire Islanders staff, especially during the holiday season.
“As we got closer to Thanksgiving, we decided to get the office staff together and we thought it was fitting, the day before Thanksgiving, to lend a helping hand. I sent out an e-mail looking for volunteers the other day and within a matter of minutes I had a ton of responses. Everybody wanted to come down and everybody was ready to go bright and early this morning.”
Building Operations Manager Jean C. Victor Jr., says that The INN is more than just a place to find a meal for its guests. As the largest soup kitchen on Long Island, the workers and volunteers at the facility maintain a lot of responsibilities.
“We don’t just do a hot plate for our guests,” Victor said. “We provide hot showers, clothing and other services for our guests. If any of our guests need housing or they have any red tape going through any situation, we have former Department of Social Service Directors here for them. The Women’s Bar Association comes here once a month if our guests have any legal problems. We also have long-term housing, where our guests can go and learn how to keep up a home and cook for themselves and stuff like that.”
The INN relies heavily on donations of food and clothing, as well as volunteer support on a day-to-day basis to prepare and serve meals. Open year-round except for New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Independence Day, The Mary Brennan facility is one-of-19 soup kitchens or shelters under the INN’s umbrella on Long Island.
The Hempstead soup kitchen averaged 400-500 guests per day before Hurricane Sandy, and although the numbers are down at the facility due to the increased relief efforts around Long Island, the holiday season is always a time of need for individuals and families who have fallen upon hard times.
“We’re not feeding as many people, but we still have out normal guests that come in to eat,” Victor said. “Everybody that is homeless for the first time because of the storm – they don’t know what to do. But those who have been homeless for a long time, they just blend in. The reason we haven’t seen a lot of our guests is because they’re blending in and finding housing, finding better ways to survive.”
For more information on The INN, visit www.the-inn.org. Fans who wish to help during the holiday season should CLICK HERE.