FLATBUSH — Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens, as always, is doing its part around Thanksgiving to gobble up hunger.
The turkey giveaway, held every year in one parish in Brooklyn and one in Queens, is sponsored by CCBQ and some local businesses. This year, 700 turkeys, canned goods and Thanksgiving meal fixings were distributed to families in need.
Since 2016, Alphonse and Maria Catanese, parishioners of St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, have donated turkeys collected from local farms and distributors.
On Nov. 19, at St. Jerome’s, Flatbush, 350 turkeys were given to families, all donated by the Catanese family in memory of Alphonse’s late father.
“Years ago, my dad used to give out turkeys to his employees and friends,” Catanese said. “When my dad passed away, my wife and I wanted to carry on that tradition. I felt an emptiness around the holidays … God always says to help others no matter large or small, to always give back and appreciate the goodness and blessings we have. I thank God I’m in this position to be able to help others.”
The Queens turkey giveaway was scheduled to be held on Nov. 22 at Resurrection Ascension Catholic Church in Rego Park.
In Flatbush, Father Jean Yvon Pierre, the pastor of St. Jerome’s, was enthused by the presence of hundreds of families lining up outside the church, ready to be served.
“We are blessed here in Flatbush to show solidarity with the community,” Father Pierre said. “Our volunteers here represent different ministries and ethnic groups in the parish, and it’s a sign of unity with our neighbors. It’s part of our mission to serve.”
Rosie Gilbert, a longtime parishioner of St. Jerome’s who volunteered at the turkey distribution, said that Thanksgiving is a time to thank God for all blessings received, and the best way to do that is by giving back to those in need.
“It’s important for people to receive, whether it’s a donation, your talent or your time, and to be a part of that is a great joy,” Gilbert said.
Flatbush residents Chernel Smith and Gloria Ptomey breathed a sigh of relief as they filled their baskets with donated turkeys and canned goods.
“Thanksgiving dinner is really expensive, so this really helps a lot, and means a lot to this community,” Ptomey said. “We really appreciate it.”
Georgia Smith, another local resident, is counting both her food and her blessings.
“I’m grateful to be alive, to wake up each morning, to have a family and God who loves me… It’s important to give Him all the love and praise that I possibly can as long as I’m on this earth. The holidays remind us of that.”
Catholic Charities is glad to help.
“A happy Thanksgiving goes a long way, and to add a bag of food with that is a great way to carry out the mission,” said Debbie Hampson, director of the Catholic Charities Community Centers in Queens.