It took less than 30 minutes in drizzling weather Monday morning for volunteers to hand out about 160 Thanksgiving dinners for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s third annual Thanksgiving food drive. 

The drive, which included frozen turkeys, a few hams, bags and boxes of fixings, as well as toiletries, was held at the S.T.A.R.T. Resource Center, located across from the Yaphank Correctional Facility.

Undersheriff Steven Kuehhas said it was “more important than ever” to do a food drive to help those in need. “There’s more of a need to get the food out there because of Covid.”

The Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Sheriffs PBA and the Correction Officer’s Association all contributed to the food drive, as did Caitlyn’s Vision, of Mastic, which donated $3,500 for food. Herbie’s Crumb Cake, of Center Moriches, provided 50 crumb cakes and Church Unleashed, of Commack, donated 60 turkeys.

Caitlyn Michiels, of Mastic, of Caitlyn's Vision
Caitlyn Michiels, of Mastic, of Caitlyn’s Vision.

The sheriff’s office identified not-for-profit agencies ahead of time for the drive, some of which worked with former inmates.

One of them included New Hour for Women and Children, based in Brentwood.

Executive Director Serena Liguori said the group, which runs programs out of the jail and has helped more than 1,000 women this year, said the donations were essential because “so many of our women fall under the poverty line.” Her group filled three SUVs worth of food primarily for women and grandmothers.

“This is one way that really makes a difference.”

Samantha Morales, the founder and president of Branches Long Island, a Middle Island-based outreach center, picked up 35 frozen turkeys and 50 bags of food.

Thanksgiving Food Drive 2020

“We have families that reach out to us for assistance. Either through social workers or through local schools. It went that same day. We serviced about 450 families this Thanksgiving.

That compares to 50 families last year, during the group’s first year in operation.

However, she said, “Since the pandemic, for sure it’s picked up into overdrive.”

Other organizations that stopped by included Cops N Kids, North Shore Youth Council, Empowerment Collaborative of Long Island and Spin the Yard.

The food drive was held at the S.T.A.R.T. Resource Center to promote continued connections with people who might need its services. S.T.A.R.T. is short for Sheriff’s Transition and Reentry Team and the center, which was launched in February by Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr., offers both transitional assistance ranging from substance abuse treatment to education, to job assistance to transportation, food, and housing, as well as ongoing support such as resume writing and a food pantry so that former inmates may live successful lives.

“We want people to know that the resource is here,” said officer Dominick Verni. “You can come back. There are no restrictions.”

Thanksgiving Food Drive 2020
Thanksgiving Food Drive 2020
Thanksgiving Food Drive 2020