Making a difference

Volunteer Bethany Thomas holds the Rock and Wrap Volunteer Bethany Thomas holds the Rock and Wrap It Up! Humanitarian Award that founder Syd Mandelbaum presented to the NY Yankees at Yankee Stadium in 2012. The organization annually gives an award for the efforts of its partners, in this case, the Yankees who have donated food for years after every single event at the Stadium which then goes to serve those in need. (April 2012) Photo Credit: Handout

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For Bethany Thomas, volunteering to help the needy is a family tradition that spans four generations.

She recalled that her grandmother would bake bread and brown-bag sandwiches every morning for the homeless who congregated near her home. "And my father is a minister who taught me to give back to the less fortunate in any way I could, as he does," said Thomas, 38, who, in addition to serving on the nonprofit's board, is also Rock and Wrap It Up's social media and national music director.

"It's become a way of life for me and I've been passing on my commitment to my daughter, Jemma, for the four years since I began my contact with Rock and Wrap It Up. Jemma is 9 now and she's always eager to come with me to help when I'm picking up donated food or doling it out to hungry people at the agencies that Rock and Wrap It Up serves."

Jemma said she likes to talk to the needy people she meets.

"They don't have a lot so I give them things like stuffed animals and some clothes from my closet," she said.

Thomas, who lives in Forest Hills, is an insurance broker with clients in the entertainment industry and where, she said, "a lot of food was thrown away after events by concessions. I met Syd [Mandelbaum] at a fundraising [event] and realized that my business contacts would make for a natural fit with [Rock and Wrap It Up's] mission to recover all that perfectly good food and redistribute it to charitable institutions.

"I want to hand this compassion down to my daughter, that just one person can make a difference in someone's life, that you don't have to be rich to give hope to a person in need and that in life you take some good things for granted, so by giving what you can, you maintain your focus on what's important."

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