Long Islanders gathered in Rosedale and Calverton to give a helping hand this Thanksgiving to those in need.  Credit: Jeff Bachner; Thomas Lambui

This story was reported by Lorena Mongelli, Darwin Yanes and Dandan Zou. It was written by David Olson.

Long Islanders gathered Thursday at dining tables, food drives, turkey trots and other events, grateful for what in some cases was a return, after years of separation, to a semblance of a pre-pandemic Thanksgiving.

At the North Amityville Fire Company, volunteers scooped turkey and green beans into takeout boxes for delivery to shelters, veterans and homebound people. At a Rosedale home for people with special needs, staff laid out a festive multicultural feast. And in Massapequa, 1,500 hearty souls took to the streets on a chilly-but-not-frigid Thanksgiving morning for the hamlet's annual 5-kilometer Turkey Trot for charity.

The event was curtailed for two years due to the pandemic. Organizers said the event will raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Participants ranged in age from 5 to 85, and there was also a Kids Fun Race.

“We’re just incredibly excited to be back and to have such a great turnout,” said James Joseph, an attorney from Merrick who organized the race with two friends and fellow lawyers in 2010 after he beat blood cancer.

“It’s a great family tradition to start off their Thanksgiving morning,” he said.

Some people donned turkey hats and other colorful holiday gear as music pulsed through the air.

Event organizers said the event paves the way to a healthy start before the indulgent feast, with a good cause to boot.

Logan Elie, a 16-year-old who attends boarding school in Windsor, Connecticut, was visiting family in Westbury for the holiday and ran the race with her dad. A cross country and track runner, she finished way before him but valued the bonding experience.

“My dad and I love running together. … He’s always like, you’re going to stay together with me this time?” she said with a smile.

“She’s way faster than him,” added her mom, Thalia Elie, who was there for support. “To go come home and be able to do this, it’s always good for them to be able to reconnect.”

In North Amityville, volunteers at the fire company packed about 1,000 meals for delivery to those who might otherwise go without a Thanksgiving meal, said the Rev. Terrance Daye, who heads the annual food drive and is pastor of Christian Life Center Church in Amityville.

Daye, of Dix Hills, knows the challenge of putting food on the table. He recalled how as a child growing up in Brooklyn, he brought notes to the corner store for food that his mother — a single parent with four children — promised to pay for as soon as her paycheck came in.

About 12 years ago, it felt natural for him to begin volunteering at the annual food drive started by Pastor Roy Kirton to send meals to those in need on Thanksgiving.

After Kirton died in July at 71, Daye took over organizing the operation and said he plans to continue the tradition that is now in its 27th year.

“Life is like a relay race. You run as hard as you can and as fast as you can. And then you pass the baton to the next person,” Daye said. “[Kirton] was on dialysis, and he would come when he wasn't even feeling well. Just to see the tenacity of him and the effort that he put forth, I mean, how could you not gravitate to that? So it was easy for me to pick up. I'm going to continue to run the race that he started.”

For Fayona Ferguson, residential manager of a home in Rosedale for those with special needs, Thursday offered her a chance to spend the holiday with her "second family."

“This house is always celebrating something,” Ferguson said. “We do it in-house, just the staff and management.”

Staff members prepared residents holiday favorites like turkey, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie. But they also brought oxtail, a Caribbean favorite, to the table, as well as Guyanese-style chow mein and rice — a nod to the cultural backgrounds of some residents. The staff, with the assistance of residents, decorated the house with autumn-colored balloons, banners and tablecloths.

Ferguson, of Jamaica, Queens, said they currently house six special needs individuals, who depend on the staff for support. The residents' ages range from the early 20s to mid-50s.

“They are my second family,” said Ferguson, who celebrates her 39th birthday on Saturday. “Some of them weren’t able to go home, so we try to make it as homey as we can.”

The Rosedale home is just one of forty-five across Queens, Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk Counties supported by Life’s WORC, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide services and support for those with a host of often debilitating mental and physical health problems.

Otalia John, 32, an employee at the residential home, said she was up early cooking for the holiday dinner. She was among the four workers on duty Thanksgiving night who joined three residents for dinner.

The residents ate, with the assistance of some staffers, while the group shared laughs and swayed to music. After-dinner plans included watching movies and listening to music, John said.

“I’m thankful that I could be here for them,” John said. “Not everyone could go home to their family.”

Long Islanders gathered Thursday at dining tables, food drives, turkey trots and other events, grateful for what in some cases was a return, after years of separation, to a semblance of a pre-pandemic Thanksgiving.

At the North Amityville Fire Company, volunteers scooped turkey and green beans into takeout boxes for delivery to shelters, veterans and homebound people. At a Rosedale home for people with special needs, staff laid out a festive multicultural feast. And in Massapequa, 1,500 hearty souls took to the streets on a chilly-but-not-frigid Thanksgiving morning for the hamlet's annual 5-kilometer Turkey Trot for charity.

The event was curtailed for two years due to the pandemic. Organizers said the event will raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Participants ranged in age from 5 to 85, and there was also a Kids Fun Race.

“We’re just incredibly excited to be back and to have such a great turnout,” said James Joseph, an attorney from Merrick who organized the race with two friends and fellow lawyers in 2010 after he beat blood cancer.

A family tradition

“It’s a great family tradition to start off their Thanksgiving morning,” he said.

Some people donned turkey hats and other colorful holiday gear as music pulsed through the air.

Event organizers said the event paves the way to a healthy start before the indulgent feast, with a good cause to boot.

Logan Elie, a 16-year-old who attends boarding school in Windsor, Connecticut, was visiting family in Westbury for the holiday and ran the race with her dad. A cross country and track runner, she finished way before him but valued the bonding experience.

“My dad and I love running together. … He’s always like, you’re going to stay together with me this time?” she said with a smile.

“She’s way faster than him,” added her mom, Thalia Elie, who was there for support. “To go come home and be able to do this, it’s always good for them to be able to reconnect.”

Volunteers in the spirit

In North Amityville, volunteers at the fire company packed about 1,000 meals for delivery to those who might otherwise go without a Thanksgiving meal, said the Rev. Terrance Daye, who heads the annual food drive and is pastor of Christian Life Center Church in Amityville.

Daye, of Dix Hills, knows the challenge of putting food on the table. He recalled how as a child growing up in Brooklyn, he brought notes to the corner store for food that his mother — a single parent with four children — promised to pay for as soon as her paycheck came in.

About 12 years ago, it felt natural for him to begin volunteering at the annual food drive started by Pastor Roy Kirton to send meals to those in need on Thanksgiving.

After Kirton died in July at 71, Daye took over organizing the operation and said he plans to continue the tradition that is now in its 27th year.

“Life is like a relay race. You run as hard as you can and as fast as you can. And then you pass the baton to the next person,” Daye said. “[Kirton] was on dialysis, and he would come when he wasn't even feeling well. Just to see the tenacity of him and the effort that he put forth, I mean, how could you not gravitate to that? So it was easy for me to pick up. I'm going to continue to run the race that he started.”

For Fayona Ferguson, residential manager of a home in Rosedale for those with special needs, Thursday offered her a chance to spend the holiday with her "second family."

“This house is always celebrating something,” Ferguson said. “We do it in-house, just the staff and management.”

A multicultural feast

Staff members prepared residents holiday favorites like turkey, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie. But they also brought oxtail, a Caribbean favorite, to the table, as well as Guyanese-style chow mein and rice — a nod to the cultural backgrounds of some residents. The staff, with the assistance of residents, decorated the house with autumn-colored balloons, banners and tablecloths.

Ferguson, of Jamaica, Queens, said they currently house six special needs individuals, who depend on the staff for support. The residents' ages range from the early 20s to mid-50s.

“They are my second family,” said Ferguson, who celebrates her 39th birthday on Saturday. “Some of them weren’t able to go home, so we try to make it as homey as we can.”

The Rosedale home is just one of forty-five across Queens, Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk Counties supported by Life’s WORC, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide services and support for those with a host of often debilitating mental and physical health problems.

Otalia John, 32, an employee at the residential home, said she was up early cooking for the holiday dinner. She was among the four workers on duty Thanksgiving night who joined three residents for dinner.

The residents ate, with the assistance of some staffers, while the group shared laughs and swayed to music. After-dinner plans included watching movies and listening to music, John said.

“I’m thankful that I could be here for them,” John said. “Not everyone could go home to their family.”

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