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Mets players pitch in at Sandy food drive

Photo courtesy Marc S. Levine/New York Mets
By Phil Corso

With Thanksgiving looming, Queens’ Major League Baseball team stepped up to the plate for Hurricane Sandy victims throughout the borough.

With help from two of the team’s pitchers, the New York Mets hosted a special food drive Nov. 14 at Flushing’s Citi Field to benefit hungry New Yorkers. The team collaborated with City Harvest, which works to fight hunger by delivering food throughout the five boroughs, with Mets pitchers Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell at the forefront.

“I feel like I’m part of New York right now, even though I live in Texas,” Gee said at a news conference during the all-day food drive at his team’s ballpark. “It feels good to be able to get up here. I can’t imagine what these people are going through.”

It was the second annual food drive of its sort at Citi Field, according to Raquel Pinheiro, manager of corporate partnerships at City Harvest. But this time around, the focus shifted more toward helping Sandy victims collect items for the Thanksgiving holiday.

After the food drive, Gee and Parnell joined with City Harvest in a drive to Breezy Point to deliver brooms, shovels and bottled water to storm victims, a Mets spokesman said, adding that other members have been visiting affected parts of the city throughout last week.

Hurricane Sandy swept through the New York region at the end of October with severe winds and storm surges that crippled power lines and destroyed homes in New York City, particularly in areas like Breezy Point and the Rockaways. The storm claimed 43 lives throughout the city, including 11 in Queens, and caused nearly $50 billion in damages, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Parnell, a Mets relief pitcher, helped rally fans passing through Citi Field last week to drop off the most needed items, including canned fruit and vegetables, plastic jars of peanut butter, cereal and macaroni and cheese in exchange for tickets or deals at the team store.

“For half of the year, we’re up here. We have a lot of friends and co-workers who live up here,” Parnell said at the food drive. “It’s tough. You want to come help these people, but you don’t know what to do. Sometimes, you just feel like you are in the way. To finally get up here and be able to help is a good feeling.”

The food collected at Citi Field went to benefit City Harvest, which has been providing emergency deliveries throughout the city since Hurricane Sandy hit the region, bringing more than 400,000 pounds of food to victims.

Executive Director Jilly Stephens said City Harvest has worked to coordinate special food distributions and collection drives for victims in heavily damaged areas, including Breezy Point and Far Rockaway.

“There is an increased demand for food as the city slowly recovers from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, and we are filling our fleet of trucks with food for routes across the five boroughs to help our neighbors in need,” Stephens said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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