Reaching-Out charity group asks for help with Thanksgiving drive

Turkey donation shortage threatens holiday for hundreds of families

November 10, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A Bensonhurst-based charity that has fed thousands of hungry families in Southwest Brooklyn over the years is now looking for help itself. Reaching-Out Community Services is short of turkeys to distribute to needy families at its pre-Thanksgiving Operation Gobbler Giving event, according to Thomas Neve, the founder and executive director of the organization.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Neve candidly told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.

Reaching-Out might have to do the unthinkable: turn people away.

“It looks like some families won’t be getting turkeys this year,” Neve said.

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The group, which operates a food pantry out of a storefront at 7708 New Utrecht Ave., distributes hundreds of free turkeys at its Operation Gobbler Giving event each year. The distribution, which traditionally takes place on the Monday before Thanksgiving, is set for Nov. 24.

With the date fast approaching, Neve and his volunteers are fanning out into the community seeking donations of turkeys from groups and individuals. “If 100 people brought in one turkey each, that would be 100 turkeys,” Neve said. Cash would be welcome too, he said. “We’ll go out and buy the turkeys,” he said.

What caused the turkey shortage? Neve said the organizations that normally donate turkeys to Reaching-Out have cut back, leaving the charity with fewer birds to give out this year. “City Harvest gave us 80 turkeys. They usually give us 120,” he said.

“I might be able to get 40 or 50 turkeys from the Rotary Club. But other than that, no one has stepped up so far,” Neve said.

Neve, a retired city sanitation worker, founded Reaching-Out in 1992 after being struck by the number of people in Bensonhurst who were homeless or were working but were having trouble making ends meet. In addition to a food pantry, the organization provides social service referrals, nutrition and health care education, free tax assistance and summer tutoring.

The group’s food pantry is “a place where our low income neighbors are treated with respect,” Rocco Coluccio, a volunteer, told Community Board 11 at a meeting last May. Coluccio and another volunteer, Sonia Valentin, spoke at the community board meeting to give civic leaders an insight into how Reaching-Out operates.

The food pantry is set up to look like a supermarket so that clients can feel like they are shopping for food rather than getting food as a handout. The pantry helped feed 5,300 families last year, according to Valentin. “Five years ago, there were only 800 families,” she said.

Reaching-Out hosts events throughout to the year to ensure financially struggling families that they are not forgotten. In late August, the organization hosts the Big Backpack Giveaway, distributing free backpacks to hundreds of kids for the start of the school year. Another event is Operation Christmas Smiles, a party for children.

For information on how to donate, call 917-509-9055.

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