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The South Shore Takeout Project is feeding families while helping local restaurants

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St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Islip Rotary have found a way to help families in need and local restaurants simultaneously. 

It’s through a fundraiser called The South Shore Takeout Project. 

Here’s how it works.

The South Shore community is encouraged to purchase restaurant gift cards to donate to St. Mark’s, located at 754 Montauk Highway in Islip. 

St. Mark’s will then donate the gift cards to God’s Provisions, an organization in affiliation with Long Island Cares that supplies church food pantries, senior communities, and shelters across Suffolk County.

“The pandemic has wreaked havoc with our economy,” St. Mark’s Rev. Richard E. Simpson. “People have lost jobs and can barely feed their families. A restaurant gift card will either be a much-needed meal or a treat.”

In the spirit of Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17, the Bible story of “the feeding of 5,000” makes the fundraiser even more symbolic, Simpson said. 

“Restaurant business is down to about 30 percent of their usual income and relies heavily on take-out or curbside pick-up for revenue,” Simpson said. “Many are either closed or due to close.”

Dr. Barbara Bolen of Northport came up with the idea for The South Shore Takeout Project over the holidays while thinking about hungry families and struggling restaurants. 

A Northport restaurant was offering a family meal package that was $60 to feed four, and she asked the owner if she knew of a family she could donate a meal to.

This sparked the idea to involve local food pantries and encourage other organizations to join the endeavor, which St. Mark’s and Islip Rotary jumped right in on.

Dr. Bolen and her project partner, Carol Crowley, brought in $4,000 in just a little over a month.

“We’d like the gift cards to be substantial enough to buy full meals,” organizer Irene Ross said. “Some restaurants have family or catering packages that could feed an entire family for one night, with maybe even some leftovers for another day’s lunch or dinner.”

The program is expected to run through the end of March, and will specifically target areas near the Great South Bay, Oakdale, Patchogue, Sayville, Holbrook, Hauppauge, and more.

Those who want to contribute can donate their gift cards to St. Mark’s by mail, bring them to the church office Monday through Friday during the hours of 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or call organizer Irene Ross at (631) 572-8057 to make arrangements.

“We know everyone is experiencing some level of financial distress with the pandemic, so why not pool your resources with others, whether friends, neighbors, co-workers, local businesses, clubs, etcetera?” Ross said. “If many people chip in, that becomes a big number that can feed an entire family.”

Top: Photo courtesy of The South Shore Takeout Project.