(John Mottern, Feature Photo Service)
For the third year in a row, many East Boston families will have a Thanksgiving turkey free of charge, thanks to a partnership between the East Boston YMCA and Stop & Shop.
“Obviously, being a food retailer, this just makes sense for us to give back to the community,” said Suzi Robinson, manager of public and community relations for Stop & Shop. “Fighting hunger is a huge priority for us.”
Representatives from Stop & Shop brought their Turkey Express to the YMCA location in Bremen Street Park on Wednesday and huddled under a canopy as families arrived in the rain. The supermarket chain donated 250 turkeys to help feed East Boston families for the holiday.
The donations are part of a broader partnership between the Stop & Shop/Giant Family Foundation and the YMCA of Greater Boston. The supermarket chain also provides ongoing support for children’s nutrition and physical fitness programs at the East Boston Y.
Robinson said the Turkey Express Program would give a total of 20,000 turkeys to regional food banks and local organizations throughout the Northeast. In addition, the supermarket chain’s 22-year-old Food for Friends program pairs individual stores with food pantries in their area and collects donations from customers to help support the food pantries and regional food banks.
Food for Friends is currently under way and will run through December 8.
“It’s a really nice way, as well, to give back and help provide thousands and thousands of meals for Thanksgiving,” Robinson said.
Joey Cuzzi, executive director of the East Boston YMCA, said the neighborhood has many low-income families.
“Families here could desperately use the additional help, especially during the holidays, to pay for a turkey,” Cuzzi said. “We know how costly preparing a Thanksgiving dinner can be.”
She said turkey recipients came from the more than 250 families with children in the Y’s early education and childcare programs or afterschool programs for older children. The facility serves about 340 children through its six afterschool programs and its preschool, all of whom were invited to participate in the turkey giveaway.
“These families are very, very, very appreciative of the Stop & Shop donation, and we’re certainly very pleased and proud to be partners with Stop & Shop on this,” Cuzzi said.
Families picking up turkeys on Wednesday expressed their gratitude and described their plans for the holiday.
Single mom Jennifer Zeggert, a resident of East Boston for four years, came to pick up a turkey with her six-year-old son Alexander, who is in the Y’s afterschool academic program at the Samuel Adams School. They plan to take the turkey to a Thanksgiving dinner at Zeggert’s mother’s home in New York.
“[It’s a] big trip, and we’re going to use this lovely turkey,” Zeggert said.
Ten-year-old Levi Melgar came to pick up a turkey with her 3-year-old brother Rony and her mother Ana, who works at the Hotel Commonwealth and speaks limited English. The Melgar children will be having Thanksgiving dinner at home with their mother; their father, a restaurant cook; and their uncle, who is living with them after recently immigrating from Guatemala. Other relatives who live nearby will also be joining them.
The children both take part in YMCA programs, Rony in the pre-school program and Levi in afterschool. Levi Melgar said Thanksgiving is a big event in their house, complete with streamers and balloons — Rony likes to help with the decorations.
“Mostly whenever Thanksgiving comes, we mostly talk about nice things about each other; we mostly hang out of the next few days together,” Levi Melgar said. “Everybody in the family, when it’s Thanksgiving, we help my mom cook the turkey.”
(John Mottern, Feature Photo Service)