By David Brand
Despite the year’s many challenges, Queens residents have found countless reasons to be thankful and find community this holiday season.
All week long, people across the borough will gather and lend a hand to neighbors in need.
Assemblymember Edward Braunstein kicked off his eighth annual holiday gift drive on Nov. 19 for hospitalized veterans as well as a toy drive for children in need and are hospitalized.
Braunstein said he and his and partners are collecting candy — sugar-free preferred —, pajamas, robes, slippers, socks, sweaters, shaving cream, toothbrushes, toothpaste, playing cards and puzzles to support the troops and bring cheer to hospitalized veterans.
"These donations help show our veterans how much we appreciate the sacrifices they made for our country,” Braunstein said. “All gifts will be distributed to the men and women at the St. Albans VA Community Living Center, and the Veterans' Home at St. Albans.”
Donors can deliver gifts between now and Monday, Dec.17 to Braunstein’s office at 213-33 39th Ave., Suite 238, the office of Dr. William M. Duke at 35-01 202nd St. and the office of Community Board 11 at 46-21 Little Neck Parkway.
"I am also conducting a toy drive for hospitalized and needy children in Queens,” Braunstein said. “You can participate by donating unwrapped new toys.”
The nonprofit, Vessel of Life, will host its own annual Thanksgiving dinner to ensure women and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse can “gather in a loving environment to give thanks collectively,” according to the event’s flyer.
The Vessel of Life, which provides outreach and programs for victims of sexual abuse and violence, will begin its dinner at 5 p.m.
The food service organization Masbia operates a soup kitchen in Rego Park and welcomes volunteers to help serve food on Thanksgiving – and most other days of the year. Volunteers must be at least 10 years old and are needed to host meals in “restaurant-style dining rooms.” Responsibilities include bussing tables, washing dishes, preparing meals and working in the kitchen, according to the volunteer opportunity aggregator Mommy Poppins.
The Coalition for the Homeless’ annual holiday gift drive remains in full effect through Dec. 14. Queens residents can stop by the Coalition’s collection site at the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, located at 59-26 Woodside Ave. in Woodside.
“Nearly 23,000 children will spend this holiday season in homeless shelters —but you can bring smiles to their faces and let them know how special they truly are,” the Coalition said in a statement. “Something as simple as a new toy can make all the difference in the world to a child in need, bringing the joy and warmth that every kid should feel during the holidays.”
Several organizations have already hosted events to assist Queens residents in need. City Meals on Wheels has trained volunteers to deliver food on Thursday, but the organization is still looking for volunteers to lend a hand on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s.
The organization God’s Love We Deliver, which specializes in bringing meals to people with HIV/AIDS, has filled up their volunteer opportunities for Thursday, but continues recruiting volunteers for the rest of the holiday season.
“There's no better place to spend Thanksgiving Day than with God's Love We Deliver,” the organization said. “Delivering thousands of meals requires the help of many volunteers.”
On Tuesday, the House of Prayer International in Jamaica hosted its annual Thanksgiving food initiative for homeless New Yorkers.
Even the MTA has embraced the Thanksgiving spirit. The transit agency — lately under fire for persistent delays, crumbling stations and reported fare increases— will offer free bus service to LaGuardia Airport. The free service began on Monday and will last until Monday, Nov. 26
The LaGuardia Link Q70 runs from Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street, and 61st Street–Woodside to the airport.