Thanksgiving's centuries-old tradition of sharing a meal with strangers inspired Long Islanders on Friday to donate turkeys, canned goods and all manner of other delights to those who otherwise might miss out.
Volunteers at Bethpage Federal Credit Union's 10th annual food drive in Bethpage estimated nearly 900 turkeys had been donated by midmorning, more than a third of last year's total. The Bethpage Turkey Drive for Island Harvest ran until 6:30 p.m.
"I come every year; I think it's a good thing to do, to share with other people," said Aretha Boodram of Melville. She and her husband, Roodal, came with CJ, their yellow Lab.
About one in 10 Long Islanders cannot take regular meals for granted, said Randi Shubin Dresner, CEO of Island Harvest, a Bethpage nonprofit that will help stock 70 food pantries and agencies with the donations. Hunger is a year-round problem, she said.
Misfortune such as an illness or layoff can strike at any time, said Keith Henke, who was unloading the 25 turkeys, several bags of stuffing and rice, and a skid full of canned goods, donated by his employer, Hauppage-based HTx Services.
"We are all one circumstance away from needing this," Henke said.
"It's good to be charitable; no one should go hungry on Thanksgiving," said John Cudabac, 67, of Bethpage, another repeat donor.
To raise money for the 18 turkeys donated by his son's firm, First Class Hauling of Babylon, Bill Furst, 73, of North Bellmore, redeems the bottles the family and the workers collect all year. "I do this just for being thankful," he said.
Volunteer Victoria Spulveda, 10, of Levittown, agreed. "My favorite part is giving to the people."
Alec Armyn, 18, of Bethpage, a nine-time volunteer, said, "I just think it's important to help out."
Both children's mothers work for Bethpage, and their experiences exemplified the approach Dresner recommends to parents who fear their children fail to understand what true want is.
"I have people say to me, 'Show me the nearest soup kitchen; my child needs to understand what they have,' " Dresner said.
Actually, Dresner recommends parents teach through volunteering and other actions.
Observing the steady stream of cars and trucks dropping off food. Dresner said: "The community is here."
This year's drive collected more than 2,000 turkeys and 16,000 pounds of food, officials said Friday night. Thousands of dollars also were donated and will be used to buy more turkeys.