The Suffolk County Women’s Alliance to End Food Insecurity (SCWATEFI) is a newer nonprofit that raises and purchases funds to feed families across Suffolk County. The Suffolk County News recently spoke with Patricia Blair, one of the founding members of the group.
The Suffolk County News: So, you are one of the founding members of SCWATEFI. How did it come about?
Blair: So, the long story is that in March and April of 2020, I formed a Facebook group called “The Islips Feed the Southside Hospital Employees,” and in the six weeks that we did that, we raised $80,000 and we fed Southside Hospital (now South Shore University Hospital) 8,500 meals. I did that on my Venmo account on my phone and I arranged with all the restaurants. It was really an incredible, collaborative event. Every day, we’d post on Facebook. There were about 3,500 people in the group. They loved to see the pictures of the delivery and the staff all masked up saying “thank you.” It was very humbling and a great experience.
And then I thought, If I can do this just doing this on Facebook, I could just make something a little bigger. So, I created a not-for-profit with the ridiculous name of SCWATEFI and I invited about 40 women to The View in Oakdale at the beginning of July 2021 and I said, “This is what I would like to do, would you be interested?” And it was all women that either work or own a business in Suffolk County. And they were crazy supportive.
SCN: I saw you guys had done a Christmas Challenge to give people staples for Christmas. What was that?
Blair: That money, we raised enough to feed 200 families and we donated it to the Springs Food Pantry.
SCN: Something that impressed me about your organization was how much fresh fruit and vegetables you donate. With so many of the local food pantries, it is just dry goods. Why was that something important to SCWATEFI?
Blair: It’s harder to get those things because they are more expensive, and if we are able to provision food pantries and homeless shelters and veterans’ places with those items that they couldn’t normally get, we want to do that.
SCN: Were all these women people that you knew previously, or have you met them through this?
Blair: I met a lot of them from the beginning of COVID. Some of them I’ve known for 25 years. A bunch of them I just met through COVID. Just incredible members in their own communities.
SCN: Are you working on anything for the spring right now?
Blair: So, we are gearing up to do a couple of food distributions on a smaller scale through the winter months and then we want to do another food drive-by event before Mother’s Day. So, it would probably be the last weekend in April—hopefully, down in a central location and in celebration of Mother’s Day.
SCN: Does your group meet monthly or is everything through Facebook?
Blair: We’ve met three times. The last meeting was right after our fundraiser but before Thanksgiving. The next meeting may be virtual depending on Omicron. And then we have a huge email thread that goes on.
SCN: Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
Blair: It’s kind of neat that there’s multi-generations here. My daughter is involved, my son’s girlfriend is. There’s a couple of other mother-daughter groups that are involved. It’s important as we get older to show our children how easy it is to help others and do it.
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