Courtesy of Angelica Ramirez
Ramirez (second from r.) and her family at Vessel of Life’s free Thanksgiving dinner.
By Cassidy Klein

Vessel of Life, a nonprofit founded by Flushing/Fresh Meadows resident Angelica Ramirez, held its free Thanksgiving dinner for survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) Nov. 22 at Blend on the Water restaurant in Long Island City. They served 16 people in six families.

Ramirez said that although the full list of families who RSVP’d could not join, “the ones that were there were meant to be there.”

“Families were so grateful,” Ramirez said. “Many shared and confirmed that the holidays are very hard because of [trauma]. You should’ve seen the smiles on people’s faces.”

Ramirez shared an article previously published in TimesLedger Newspapers, “Queens nonprofit to host free Thanksgiving dinner for survivors of childhood sexual abuse,” with the managers at Blend on the Water. After they read the article, Ramirez said they “asked if we still needed a place and that they wanted to host it.”

“The children, for some of them it was their first time in a nice restaurant,” Ramirez said. “We wanted to show them they were deserving of it, to be in this kind of restaurant. And the restaurant was so supportive. They were really prepped and ready to serve us.”

Blend on the Water is a waterfront Latin Fusion restaurant — located at 45-40 Center Blvd. — that has nighttime views of the city skyline, which Ramirez said created a “beautiful atmosphere” for the dinner.

Due to capacity issues, Ramirez said they could not accommodate everyone who was interested in the dinner. For those who could not physically come to the restaurant, Ramirez and her team distributed cooked turkeys and nonperishable food items for 13 families to their homes or shelters Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. All of the food items had been donated.

Vessel of Life, which started in January 2018, counsels and assists women who have suffered CSA. For many of them, the holidays can be a difficult time, as they often feel isolated or sometimes re-traumatized due to contact with their abusers at holiday gatherings.

This dinner was organized to provide a place for families to go who might otherwise be spending Thanksgiving alone, Ramirez said.

Vessel of Life is now running a toy drive for the children of the women survivors they serve. These gifts will be wrapped and given to mothers who may not have the resources to buy holiday gifts for their children.

The Vessel of Life team is willing to pick up any new toys people would like to donate. Those interested can email vesseloflife.ministry@gmail.com. The final day to donate is Dec. 15.

“We are so grateful,” said Ramirez. “It’s a lot of work, but so worth it.”

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