Couple donates 50 turkeys to Island Harvest

Jenna Masnyk of Rhode Island, right, and Mariel

Jenna Masnyk of Rhode Island, right, and Mariel Curran of Smithtown, help load donated turkeys onto an Island Harvest collection truck during the 4th Annual Bethpage Turkey Drive to benefit Island Harvest. (Nov. 16, 2012) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

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Jennifer and Mike Trombino, of Centereach, pulled up in a Chevy Avalanche with 50 frozen turkeys, a donation the couple made to Island Harvest Friday during the group's annual drive.

The steamfitter and his wife, pregnant with their fourth child, count themselves lucky that all the family lost during the storm was electricity.

"We have a home where we can have Thanksgiving dinner. Other people don't," said Jennifer Trombino, 37.

While watching the news, the Trombinos were moved by footage showing the destruction and misery superstorm Sandy foisted on countless families across Long Island. Then, they saw a story about the turkey drive.

"We said, 'Let's get some birds,' " said Mike Trombino, 39.

The couple immediately got in their utility truck, drove to a Pathmark and bought virtually all the turkeys in the store. The bill came to $1,400.

From gestures large and small and from individuals to business owners, Long Islanders streamed into the Bethpage Federal Credit Union parking lot in Bethpage throughout the day with a single mission -- to help their neighbors.

"All Long Islanders are my neighbors," said Harriet Cinco, 62, a retired high schoolteacher from Levittown who was toting two birds. "There are people who don't have roofs over their heads. One in six children goes to school hungry. It's our responsibility to do something about that."

Help didn't just come in the form of donations.

Alec Armyn, spent his 12th birthday ferrying cereal boxes, canned foods and other supplies from donors' vehicles to Island Harvest trucks. The sixth-grader from West Hollow Middle School is doing his part so those affected by the storm could feel like life is "normal."

"It feels good because I know I am helping a lot of families that need things like turkeys, soap and paper towels," he said.

The annual turkey drive, in its fourth year, expanded its mission to include helping storm victims. In addition to turkeys, Island Harvest is requesting cleaning supplies, baby items like diapers, and easy-to-open shelf-stable food items.

"This is a tough year. It's hard for a lot of reasons," said Randi Stubin Dresner, the food bank's president and chief executive. "This is the first one where we, as an organization, and our employees were affected."

In the days after the storm, one employee ran out of gasoline, so he walked from his home in Centereach to a nearby Walmart store and bought a bicycle, Dresner said. Then, he rode it to Hauppauge, where Island Harvest has a warehouse, so he could distribute foods to people in need.

"I could tell you 35 stories like that," Dresner said.

During last year's drive, the group collected about 4,000 turkeys and several thousand pounds of food, Dresner said. This year may be more challenging because of the continuing economic slump and Sandy.

Some small-business owners, who have donated in years past, can't afford to give this year, Dresner said.

"Even if we only collect 2,000 turkeys, that means 2,000 families are going to have a good holiday," Dresner said.

Bethpage Federal Credit Union's 26 branches will accept donations of nonperishable items through Nov. 30, turkey drive organizers said.

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