BY DEAN MOSES
With Thanksgiving on the horizon and the number of Queens residents suffering from food shortages at an all-time high, Councilman Francisco Moya, Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman teamed with Union Carpenters and Contractors for a three-day tour to distribute free turkeys to those in need.
Beginning on Nov. 20 and culminating on Nov. 23, extensive lines consisting of both children and seniors alike braved the frigid cold while clinging to empty shopping carts as the masses wrapped along winding blocks, with many prepared to wait hours in hopes of enjoying the holiday with a hearty meal.
On Saturday, Moya helped the Union Carpenters and Contractors hand out turkeys to the community at the Queens Public Library and the First Baptist Church in East Elmhurst.
The first distribution took place beneath a small gazebo outside a local library, where those who pre-registered formed a queue along Astoria Boulevard. Moya took the time to greet each attendee and made a special effort to talk with children who waited alongside their parents. Unwilling to allow families to be turned away empty-handed, Moya also scoured the line for those arriving without registering for the event first, dispensing turkey vouchers that could be redeemed instantly at a nearby supermarket.
Two elderly neighbors opted to attend the event together, keeping each other company while they waited for a turkey. From waiting with strangers to the inability to spend the holiday with family indoors, it was clear to the East Elmhurst residents that Thanksgiving 2020 will be unlike any other.
“I’m having Thanksgiving dinner by myself and my children are having dinner at their own homes. If it is a nice day, we are going to have dessert in the backyard,” Joan Livingston told QNS.
Bertha Jones also wanted to ensure she had access to a turkey this Thanksgiving, so she joined Livingston outside the Queens Library. Both women were concerned they would have to wait in unbearable cold, so they arrived promptly, becoming first to wait in line for 10 a.m. event.
“I’m going to cook at home, no company — just myself, my niece and granddaughter,” Jones said.
While it will not be the large and festive Thanksgiving many families are used to, participants like Jones appreciate receiving a free turkey that will last her family several days.
“I think people need it. They don’t have jobs right now. Money don’t last long. If you started digging in [to the turkey] it just goes. If you don’t have company this Thanksgiving, it’s gonna last longer,” Jones said.
A second turkey drive — which also offered other food items — took place mere blocks away at First Baptist Church located 100-10 Astoria Blvd., where hundreds of individuals lingered around every street surrounding the church, even crossing adjacent sidewalks where families set up blankets and deckchairs, hoping to make the lengthy wait time as comfortable as possible.
Moya, a lifelong resident of Corona, has seen the ravages wrought by the pandemic and the changes it has had on the community firsthand.
“I’ve represented this area for the last couple of years. This area right here — East Elmhurst and Corona — was the height of the pandemic in this country. You can see that there’s been just a huge issue here when it comes to the necessity to feed our families. Our pantries go around the block,” Moya said. “The things that you see is families coming out with their little kids and I always say that those kids don’t know what’s going on, but they’re going to grow up one day and remember that they stood on a pantry line every Saturday just to get food, and that’s going to have a psychological impact on them. A lot of folks are either out of work or can’t be with their families. Just a simple gesture of having a holiday turkey they can have for themselves, I think goes a long way. Partnering up with my office the Carpenters Union, the East Elmhurst Corona Civic, the library here, it’s just really demonstrates that we’re here and that we care, and whatever we can do, we are going to continue to do that to help feed the hungry families.”
In total, the Union Carpenters and Contractors distributed 2,500 turkeys over the course of a few days.