“Let’s make sure our neighbors are fed,” was the prevailing thought behind Seth Needelman’s organization of a food drive for the local pantry at Our Lady of the Snow R.C. Church in Blue Point.
Feeling inspired and privileged to be open during the pandemic, Needelman, whose family owns the popular community staple of Bayport, The Fish Store, took to social media to ask fellow townspeople to donate nonperishable items at his conveniently located and open store.
To further the pantry’s ability to help others in the community struggling to support their families through the pandemic, Needelman offered to donate $1 per nonperishable item (even counting a six-pack of tissues as a $6 donation, despite coming in one package).
The idea caught on and inspired other local businessowners to join in, each also pledging a $1 donation per item. “In total, there are five of us donating to the pantry under this system, so for every box of cereal or paper towel roll, there’s $5 going to the pantry,” said Needelman of the auspicious start to the fundraiser.
The generosity of the town, echoed by donors’ words of “We know it’s going local,” is seen not only in the number of donations, but also in the wide spectrum of items, from paper products to pancake mix.
“We have to empty the donation box at least five times a day,” said Needelman, whose box truck was filled to the brim for the first donation to the pantry. With no end date for the fundraiser, Needelman and fellow sponsors are enthusiastic in supporting the pantry through the ongoing pandemic that has ravaged the local economy.
State Sen. Monica Martinez honored Needelman on her social media account, naming him as a “hero” for his work.
Bryn Elliott, a leading realtor for Douglas Elliman, was one of the first local businessmen to get in touch with Needelman about doing his part for the community, “I’ve been blessed to be in a position where I can give back,” he said. As Elliott has sponsored other food drives donating to feed front-line workers, the pantry “allows me to help as many local neighbors as I can.”
Laura Rogacki-Jackson, who owns Little Angels Speech Therapy in Blue Point, said, “We know that not everyone in the community is fortunate enough to be able to securely put food on the table. We are happy and gracious to help in any way we can. I applaud Seth and Danielle for always having a generous heart for our community.”
Rob Welsh, the current vice president of the Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce, said of his sponsorship, “Everyone’s gotta help everyone.”
Ean Price, a Bayport resident and paper goods supplier to The Fish Store, was immediately interested in donating after learning about the pantry drive. “We want to do it. We can do it. So we’re paying it forward,” he said.
At last count, The Fish Store had collected over 800 items and was set to donate nearly $4,000 to the pantry.