Sayville Food Pantry currently collecting/donating turkeys and fixings
Charlene Lehmann (right) and her volunteers Dorothy Sabatino and Joanne Alcabes man the Gillette House, which is accepting donations for this year’s Thanksgiving feasts.

SCN/Fuentes

Sayville Food Pantry currently collecting/donating turkeys and fixings

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
11/21/2019


The Greater Sayville Food Pantry, serving out of the Gillette House in Sayville, has been occupying that space for the last 29 years, with plans to celebrate three decades next year. Though they operate year-round, the holiday and Thanksgiving season always sees an uptick in donations.

This year, like many others, coordinator Charlene Lehmann—who picked up the lead after founder Chestene M. Coverdale passed away last year—and her about a dozen volunteers, have worked with the community to collect about 150 turkeys with everything from the fixings to dessert, pies and brownies. The Neighbors Helping Neighbors group of families who donate baskets every year, she explained, donated about 60 baskets this year.

“They just want to help without the recognition,” she said of the attitude of the families who donate. 

The pantry, now named in honor of Coverdale, also hands out weekly cookie donations from local bakeries like Audrey’s and Fritzsche’s, and the back room “grocery store” is almost always stocked with non-perishables. 

“We are supported by so many local groups,” she said, citing the local Girl and Boy Scout troops, the school district, churches, civic, chamber and temple. “They are wonderful and host food drives.”

Throughout the year, the pantry serves about 200 families from nearby South Shore areas, including Sayville, West Sayville, Bayport, Oakdale, Bohemia and Blue Point. 

“Hunger is very real here on Long Island. The number of local residents experiencing difficulty affording food over the last year has steadily increased,” volunteer Richard Gross said, explaining that numbers double during the holidays. “Many families we serve are faced with the daily dilemma of whether to eat or pay bills.”

“We have gone from a lot of single people to working families,” Lehmann added, explaining that they serve over 140 children under the age of 18. “They [the families] just need a leg up and a little help.”

The pantry also helps in any way they can by soliciting donations for items and money for things beyond food in emergency situations, like bills for utilities, rent, or for baby car seats and school supplies.

“I always say, every year, this is the most generous area of people with both money and food donations,” Lehmann added, pleased to work in such a lovely community.

The pantry is open three days a week for donations and pickups, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Most families pick up about once every two weeks depending on their needs.

Though they are still accepting Thanksgiving donations and will continue to through Nov. 28, the need now is to keep the shelves stocked throughout the winter. Items needed include canned soups (a cold-weather favorite), canned meals, cereal, jelly and the essentials like peanut butter and pasta. For information or to donate, visit the Gillette House at 47 Gillette Avenue in Sayville or call 631-244-8375. n