Truth Community Church, FRNCA and Peconic Bay Power Squadron teamed up to buy Thanksgiving turkeys for each of the 104 families whose children attend Southampton Head Start in Flanders. Courtesy photo: Truth Community Church

Southampton Head Start children and families will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner this week, courtesy of various local groups who have banded together for the second year in a row to help the organization.

Truth Community Church, Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association and Peconic Bay Power Squadron donated a total of $1,500 to buy 104 turkeys, one for each child at Southampton Head Start.

Truth Community Church pastor Keith Indovino, whose church has helped the organization with different types of donations several times in the past two years, said that meeting the local families represented at the Southampton Head Start and learning about their needs has inspired the church to build a relationship with them.

“We want families in our neighborhood to know that there are people here for them, who love them, and it is important for us that they know that Jesus loves them,” Indovino said. “By coming together and being unified with other organizations and doing something good for people, it can really help change their holidays, change their stories, and hopefully make it a little nicer.”

Truth Community Church, which spearheaded the initiative, started a fundraiser entitled “Turkey Takeover: provide a turkey for every family at Southampton Head Start” earlier this month on its Facebook page. The post instructed people to donate $20 by texting a specific phone number. They raised a total of $800.

Peconic Bay Power Squadron, a unit of the United States Power Squadrons dedicated to safe boating through education, partnered last year with the church in a similar initiative and did so again this year, donating $300 in cash, checks and gift certificates.

FRNCA also contributed to the fundraising, donating $500.

With the $1,500 raised, Indovino set out then to find a local supermarket that would sell them “nice-sized turkeys at a wholesale price,” he said.

They found exactly that at the newly-opened ShopRite on route 58, which provided them with 104 16-pound turkeys at a low cost. Monday morning several volunteers from the church, Peconic Bay Power Squadron and FRNCA picked up the turkeys and delivered them to Head Start.

“Families were so very grateful,” director of Southampton Head Start Karen Gibson said. “It means a lot. These are children from our community, many who live below the poverty level and now this means they can have a nice Thanksgiving dinner, which they might not have had without this generous donation.”

Long Island Head Start, a community-based non-profit organization, is a free, comprehensive program funded through a federal grant that provides early childhood education for children under five years old, as well as promoting health and family well-being. It currently serves about 2,000 children and families with income at or below the federal poverty level. The organization operates out of 24 centers across Long Island, from Amityville in the west to Southold and Bridgehampton on the East End.

The Southampton and Riverhead centers have 104 children each, and currently, about 90 percent are at or below poverty level, Gibson said.

However, even though there is a clear need, Gibson said that funding is an issue that is not clear-cut or guaranteed.

By law, the federal share of the total costs of the Head Start program cannot exceed 80 percent of the total grantee budget, meaning that the remaining 20 percent has to be raised by each center through donations or similar funding – or they could lose their federal grant.

The federal poverty level for a family of four is currently set at $25,100, an amount so low it is exceedingly difficult for families to pay for basic necessities, such as food and heating, let alone private child care.

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Maria Piedrabuena
María, a multimedia reporter, graduated from Stony Brook University with degrees in journalism and women and gender studies. She has worked for several news outlets including News12 and Fortune Magazine. A native of Spain, she loves to read, write and travel. She lives in Manorville. Email Maria