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Blue Point nonprofit joins Lessing’s, Northwell to help feed 500 LI families

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One East Islip woman caught a do-good bug during the pandemic and can’t shake it. She’s infected dozen of other women in her community.

Patricia Blair started the Islips Feed the Southside Hospital Employees Facebook group to help frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

“In five weeks, we raised $80,000 and fed the hospital 8,500 meals,” Blair said. “That was all through my Venmo on my phone.”

After tasting success donating thousands of dollars worth of food to hospitals and food pantries, Blair said she recruited other South Shore women. In July, her work culminated in the foundation of the Suffolk County Women’s Alliance to End Food Insecurity, a Blue Point not-for-profit that currently has about 40 members.

Saturday, Blair’s SCWATEFI organized a food distribution drive-thru at Northwell Health’s Imbert Cancer Center in Bay Shore, where they donated food to 500 local families.

Instead of distributing traditional non-perishables like canned and boxed goods, about three dozen volunteers bagged and passed out fresh food to each passing car.

In reusable and cooler bags, SCWATEFI donated a basket’s-worth of groceries to each family. Among other things, they handed off 500 1/2 gallons of milk, 500 dozens of eggs, 2,000 apples, 1,800 potatoes, 1,200 bananas, 500 packages of romaine lettuce and 500 bunches of asparagus.

“All of that is so expensive now in the grocery store,” Blair said of fresh dairy and produce. “We really felt we could do this as a group. We held a fundraiser, we raised money, we purchased everything here today, except for what Lessing’s graciously donated.”

a group effort

The Lessing’s Hospitality Group, a restaurant and catering group with establishments in the northeast and Florida, has partnered with Blair in the past. For Saturday’s event, they prepared 500 family meal kits with ingredients and a recipe card for an ancient grains and quinoa black bean stew with vegetables and spices.

“We all want to do our part,” Michael Lessing, the president of Lessing’s Hospitality Group, said. “We’re a very fortunate family, we have a family business, and family means a lot to us. And being able to give back to those in the community who aren’t as fortunate is a great feeling.”

Also lending a hand was Northwell Health, which Nicole Mosca, a Northwell Health community outreach specialist, said promoted the event, donated all the grocery bags, and hosted it outside its cancer center. She added that partnerships like Saturday’s are critical to Northwell Health’s mission.

“Northwell Health is committed to our communities,” Mosca said. “We love having our community partners and being there for our communities.”

Volunteers from both Lessing’s and Northwell Health handed out groceries and directed vehicles at the event.

While handing out grocery bags, Blair said she is already planning more donations for the rest of the year and 2022. She said she will likely start planning a “Christmas Challenge” food drive and distribution campaign Monday.

“I’m very lucky,” Blair said of having SCWATEFI. “It’s a great group of women with a lot of positive energy.”