Saudi execs survey charity at LI food bank
There aren't many operations like Long Island Cares in Saudi Arabia.
The Hauppauge hunger-aid charity, with an $11-million budget and 1.2 million pounds of food on hand, serves tens of thousands of people each year on Long Island. Feeding the underprivileged in Saudi Arabia, said a member of a Saudi delegation in town on a business and charity expansion trip, is often no more organized than volunteers redistributing restaurant leftovers.
"We have to move it from a personal level to an institutional level," said Ali Al-Othaim, chief executive of a Riyadh investment firm, who was part of the delegation.
He and nine other recipients of a Saudi young entrepreneur award toured Long Island Cares headquarters during a weeklong American visit. The trip was coordinated by the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council.
"The idea is to learn from their experiences," said Bader Al-Asaker, secretary-general of the Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Young Entrepreneur Awards.
While Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest Middle Eastern countries, its pockets of poverty need attention, the executive said.
Long Island Cares executive director Paule Pachter told the delegation that though Long Island is considered a wealthy region, 11 percent of the population used a food pantry last year.
After familiarizing the delegation with organization founder Harry Chapin, Pachter led a tour of the 25,000-square-foot warehouse. They inspected expiration dates on pallets of donated vitamins, asked about contracts for bulk onions and potatoes, and wondered whether donated sugared drinks were balanced with more nutritious fare.
Firass Alkassim, 24, an executive for a Saudi navigation systems company, said he was impressed that Long Island Cares provides services like job and resume training sessions, and school supplies and clothing.
"It's not just about giving away your money," he said, "It's about giving away a solution."