Many Hurricane Sandy victims lost everything to the superstorm, but they’ll still have a festive table for Thanksgiving thanks to tireless volunteers, religious institutions, businesses and aid organizations.
Families whose homes were ravaged may not be able to celebrate the turkey holiday as they did in years past, but do-gooders –- including restaurant owners serving free meals and volunteers delivering mounds of food -- are making sure that those who are still struggling to rebuild have a chance to revel in the Thanksgiving traditions on Thursday.
"To see all these people have everything taken away from them, I knew I had to do something," Jaime Barrett, a pastry chef in New Jersey, told NJ.com. That “something” has amounted to whipping up enough desserts for 2,200 people to eat at Thanksgiving dinners in eight New Jersey towns this week. After volunteering in the hard-hit area of Union Beach, Barrett was inspired to coordinate a crew of friends and businesses to make the sweets. She’s already baked 1,000 chocolate chip cookies on her own, according to NJ.com.
Aid organizations are also ramping up their efforts to make sure that Sandy victims can still have Thanksgiving dinner.
The American Red Cross, which has already served 6.6 million meals and snacks since the storm hit, is continuing its efforts over the holiday with a Thanksgiving flavor, according to a statement released by the organization. The nonprofit said it will serve 35,000 hot Thanksgiving meals, with the holiday lunches comprising turkey, mashed potatoes and apple pie.
“As families across the country share a Thanksgiving meal, it’s important to remember that many people in our area are still struggling,” Josh Lockwood, the Red Cross's greater New York regional CEO, said in a statement.
Restaurants across New York and New Jersey are also playing a key role in serving up hot traditional fare to those who have nowhere to go.
Bob Fahey, co-owner of Edgar's Pub in Manasquan, N.J., saw his home destroyed by the storm. But the holiday-hero isn’t thinking about his own Sandy sorrows. He and his staff have collected donations and will be serving up free Thanksgiving meals to displaced families and out-of-state utility workers, USA Today reports.
"As long as they keep coming, we'll keep feeding them,'' Fahey told the newspaper. "It's rewarding for us and will hopefully give people a night to smile and forget about things for a bit."
Despite the hardships suffered due to Sandy, many are still finding reason to feel grateful and to enjoy the holiday.
Irene Dougherty, 45, doesn’t know when she’ll be able to leave the apartment in Bay Ridge that she's currently sharing with three adults and six kids and return to her flooded home in the Rockaways. But the displaced crew at least had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving at St. Patrick's church in Bay Ridge Monday night, at a meal hosted for those who would otherwise be without a holiday gathering.
"The holidays may not be at home, but I have to say, myself and my sister and the kids, we're just really looking forward to connecting with a lot families we know that we haven't been able to see," Dougherty told amNY. "It's bittersweet, but to surround myself with familiar faces and friends and families and seeing their faces and know they're okay, that's what I'm thankful for."
Feeling inspired? Find out how you can volunteer over Thanksgiving with Sandy victims in New York here.