On Long Island, innovation never takes a holiday

Mission accomplished: The U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program landed in Freeport on Wednesday.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

As holidays are wont to do, Thanksgiving brings out the best in people – and Long Island has no shortage of can collections, stuff-a-bus campaigns and other holiday-themed charity drives.

In addition to their regular assortment of collections and programs, the region’s largest anti-hunger agencies really cook this time of year. Last week, Bethpage-based Island Harvest Food Bank completed its 11th annual Turkey Drive, centerpiece of its master plan to provide holiday meals for 30,000 Long Island families.

Meanwhile, Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares is knee-deep in its 27th annual Check-Out Hunger Campaign, which runs from October to January in checkout lines at participating regional markets including ShopRite, IGA and Foodtown.

Long Island Cares – known also as The Harry Chapin Food Bank for its founder, the Brooklyn-born singer and humanitarian – is also engaged in a Community Bag Program with regional Stop & Shop supermarkets ($1 from every purchase of a $2.50 reusable shopping bag goes to the food bank) and a matching-donation program with San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co.

But on an island where innovation sets the socioeconomic tone, charity extends far beyond those established agencies and their well-known, well-regarded efforts.

Among the inventive, entertaining, life-saving and cockles-warming holiday programs gracing the region:

* Long Island Cares also has its green thumbs in a regional farm-to-community project featuring the East End Food Institute. The Southampton-based institute is scheduled to receive a donation of 1,600 pounds of carrots from Amagansett’s Balsam Farms, ultimately ticketed for The Harry Chapin Food Bank – and the EEFI needs a hand (or several) washing, peeling, slicing and packing the orange roots. Multiple dates are scheduled in early December; for more info, e-mail info@eastendfood.org.

* From Newsday: A rundown of faith-based places some of Long Island’s estimated 300,000 food-insecure residents can enjoy a free Thanksgiving meal.

* The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce have plotted a Shop Small Scavenger Hunt for Small Business Saturday, challenging participants to complete four tasks – eat at a local restaurant, snap a selfie at the local barber, etc. – for a shot at gift cards and other prizes.

* Small Business Saturday also figures to be a busy one at Suffolk ReStore, Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk’s Ronkonkoma-based home-improvement outlet featuring renovated materials – hardware, furniture, windows, plumbing fixtures and more – at way-below-retail prices. On tap: Twenty-five percent off purchases of $50 or more, with proceeds supporting Habitat for Humanity’s regional housing mission.

* Just about any day can be a big one, according to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, which is encouraging third parties to host their own charity drive to collect coats, food, personal products and other essentials, and will even provide step-by-step assistance with date selection, advertising, coordinating delivery of collected items to the coalition and other essentials. More info here.

* From the Ghosts of Programs Past File comes the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, which deployed in Freeport on Wednesday afternoon. Toys for Tots Vice Chairman Sean Acosta Jr. and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder joined hundreds of homeless children and other families in need for a free pre-Thanksgiving feast at Rachel’s Waterside Café, enjoying a meal donated by local merchants.