By Oona Milliken | [email protected]
The North Brooklyn Angels, a non-profit dedicated to providing free meals to the North Brooklyn community, are hosting their third annual Neighbors Giving Thanks event for Thanksgiving. Kendra Chiu, the Executive Director for North Brooklyn Angels, said the event is one of their biggest volunteer-driven events of the year.
This year, there will be three Thanksgiving day meals provided in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and East Williamsburg on Nov. 23 and one on Tuesday, Nov. 21 in Bushwick. Chiu said the drive began in 2020 and has grown from there.
“We’ve expanded this opportunity, which began during the pandemic because of how much the pandemic highlighted food insecurity, especially in North Brooklyn, and we’ve just kept the tradition up since,” Chiu said. “We decided ‘How can we provide a dignified Thanksgiving experience for our neighbors in need?’”
Neighbors Giving Thanks will provide 1,000 frozen turkeys for people to take home in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, and 630 warm meals on Tuesday and Thursday during Thanksgiving week. Chiu said there will be around 100 volunteers helping package and distribute the meals, which are catered by local restaurants.
Chiu said that the program is catered to those without a place to go during the holiday and that many senior citizens and homeless people from nearby shelters end up eating with the North Brooklyn Angels on Thanksgiving. This year, the North Brooklyn Angels are expecting an influx of migrants.
“The ideal audience would be the ones who don’t really have a place to go during Thanksgiving, and we can provide them a dignified experience. They may or may not have family to go to,” Chiu said. “I think we’re going to see an uptick in participation of families joining our meals, especially with the rise in migrants.”
During the first two years of operation, the North Brooklyn Angels hosted the Thanksgiving Day meal at the Brooklyn Exposition Center in Greenpoint, but have since partnered with various churches and community groups to geographically spread out the meals and make them more accessible to those in need. Chiu said that the volunteers are what make the whole event possible.
“Unsurprisingly, we continue to be wonderfully mobbed by people who want to volunteer,” Chiu said. “So what happens is the volunteers volunteer from the morning, and then we’re wrapped up and cleaned up by like 1:30-2 pm. This way they can go home and enjoy Thanksgiving with their families.”
The North Brooklyn Angels mission is for neighbors working with neighbors to “want to work together to fight hunger, food insecurity, and poverty,” according to their website. Chiu said the organization is focused on bridging the inequality gap between Brooklyn residents, which she said was particularly widened by the pandemic and the continuing effects of gentrification in the area. However, Chiu said the organization wanted to do so in a positive way.
“North Brooklyn Angels is around to highlight this great income disparity that does exist in our area without applying shame to it because it’s a macro-issue. What can a family do, what can volunteers do, what can young professionals do to build a community? By volunteering they have the ability to humanize and not live in a bubble,” Chiu said. “I think that’s part of our mission, to kind of remind and engage folks to understand and humanize what can easily be a very easily forgotten or neglected population.”