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A busy line of sandwich makers in Suffolk, for a good cause

Anthony Caputo, 8, his sister Danielle Caputo, 15,

Anthony Caputo, 8, his sister Danielle Caputo, 15, and dozens of other volunteers help make about 1,250 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Thursday night, Nov. 10, 2016, in a gym at the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood. Credit: Newsday / Ellen Yan

Anthony Caputo and his mom were on jelly, his siblings Timothy and Danielle were on peanut butter, and his father was on the sandwich bags — part of an assembly line for a good cause.

“Mom, I’m having trouble doing this,” Anthony, 8, said as he dipped a knife into a huge jar of grape jelly. “It’s rolling around like Jell-O.”

More than 80 people wearing hair nets, aprons and disposable gloves were jamming Thursday night as they made about 1,250 sandwiches inside the Suffolk County Police Academy gym in Brentwood, the ninth annual peanut butter sandwich benefit organized by the Police Holy Name Society of Suffolk County.

On Friday, the group will take the sandwiches, along with donated clothes and nonperishable food, to the Lighthouse Mission, a Bellport-based nonprofit that provides food, Bible readings and other help.

Steven DeSantis, a former president and current secretary at the Holy Name Society, said he started the sandwich line nine years ago, after getting the idea from the same type of benefit at his church. For nonprofits trying to feed a lot of people, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches handle the freezer pretty well for a few weeks, he said.

“When it thaws out, it tastes like it was made fresh,” said DeSantis, an internal affairs lieutenant in the Suffolk County Police Department.

His group, which has about 600 members from various law enforcement agencies in Suffolk, buys all the food and supplies — about $400 for the sandwiches this year — out of membership dues, hoping to make a dent in the hunger crisis on Long Island.

“I’m overjoyed that people come out and take their time to help other people,” DeSantis said.

The sandwiches can’t come at a better time. Just hours before the volunteers arrived, the Lighthouse Mission made a plea on Facebook for more food donations. Along with the request was a photo showing a deep and long line of people behind its mobile food pantry.

“This long line of Long Islanders are not waiting to vote or buy the latest video game, they are waiting for food,” the Facebook post began. “For months we have reported that each week the lines of hurting Long Islanders attending Lighthouse Mission’s daily food outreaches are getting longer & longer & our donations (the only way we operate) are going down.”

That sort of image was why Sarah Blaskiewicz, a sixth-grader from Sayville, resisted temptation while making sandwiches.

She said she’s almost a peanut butter and jelly sandwich addict, eating two a day. And although she was feeling hungry at the event, she refused to help herself to a sandwich.

“I know that others don’t have as much food as my family does,” said Sarah, 11, “so one more sandwich . . . can be one more meal for them.”

For more than an hour, long stretches of tables were lined by families and friends. Some were officers who had just come from services for NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, a Greenlawn resident who was fatally shot by a fleeing burglary suspect last week in the Bronx. Others were friends and children of officers. One was a retired Suffolk police inspector.

It was a family affair for the Caputos — and the 21st wedding anniversary for Veronica Caputo, a medical assistant, and her husband, Ted Caputo, a Third Precinct sergeant.

The couple celebrated the milestone the day before, and now they were making sandwiches to celebrate their values.

“It teaches my kids the right things to do and not to always put themselves first,” Veronica Caputo said.

To her children, it wasn’t a nutty idea.

“I just spread as much as I can of the peanut butter,” her son Timothy, 13, said, “and I just rub it in and put love into it.”


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