Zosia Lemaitre (from left), 16, Locust Valley, Richard Watson, 15,...

 Zosia Lemaitre (from left), 16, Locust Valley, Richard Watson, 15, Bayville, Elizabeth Watson, 11, Bayville and Sara Watson, 17, Bayville volunteer at the Community Food Drive in Bayville on March 21. Credit: Amy Watson

Newsday is opening this story to all readers as we provide Long Islanders with news and information you can use during the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates

When the coronavirus pandemic came and schools closed, Amy Watson, 44, of Bayville took action. Along with her husband Edward and three children (Elizabeth, Richard and Sara), she put together a community food drive on March 21 and 22 in her village.

“We knew this would be tough not only for families in the school district, but senior citizens living on a fixed budget who can’t flood the stores and buy in bulk,” says Watson, who works as a world language and English as a New Language coordinator for the Locust Valley Central School District. “I know a lot of our families rely on breakfast and lunch programs from the school. With people being out of work, I thought it would be a good idea to host a food drive.”

Watson made a flier, in English and Spanish, then posted it on various Locust Valley-Bayville Facebook groups to get the word out. She also worked with the St. Gertrude’s R.C. Church food pantry, former Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel and teaching assistants to identify families in need. 

The Oak Neck Athletic Council, a local nonprofit youth sports organization, offered the Watsons its headquarters at Centre Island Beach in Bayville as a drop off and organizational spot.

“People delivered their donations outside the building. Everything that came in was wiped down, sorted and bagged into new reusable bags,” says Watson. “We kept our volunteers to a minimum.”

Care packages consisted of a mix of food including items such as peanut butter and jelly, cereal, pasta, sauce, mac and cheese, cookies, chips, soup, vegetables and more. The Locust Valley Administrators Association donated Stop & Shop gift certificates and families out of work even received a cash bonus.

“We delivered a lot of bags to senior citizens or to families who don’t have a car,” says Watson. “The rest picked up their bags, which we put right in their cars.”

In addition to the Watsons, Bayville neighbors such as Al and Nancy Staab, Helen, John and Ali Piscitello, Cyndy Ergen, Madeleine Petrara Perrin, Ava Hoehne and Susan Schaefer pitched in throughout the weekend.

“We live in a wonderful community,” says Watson, who has been a Bayville resident her whole life. “When something goes wrong, everyone comes out to help.” 

Watson recalled the love she received when diagnosed with breast cancer almost five years ago. 

“People from this community came out of the woodwork to help, some who didn’t even know us,” she says. “I believe it’s important to give back.”

She also wanted to set an example for her children. Ever the teacher, Watson felt it was a key lesson for them to learn.

“It’s important to help others,” says daughter Elizabeth, 11. “Hopefully those people in the future will help other people too.”

Her oldest child Sara, 17, adds, “Everyone was very grateful for the amount of food they were able to get. Seeing all the people who came out to donate really made me feel good about how close our community is.”

Another food drive is being planned for this week. Food can be dropped off on Friday, April 3, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Oak Neck Athletic Building, 492 Bayville Ave. (at Centre Island Beach) in Bayville. Food pickup will be held Saturday, April 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For those donating, the essential foods needed are: canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, dried beans, canned tuna, oatmeal, soup, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, bread and eggs. 

To donate, call (516) 655-5987 or email: eawats@aol.com.