NEW YORK—Spending time with family is a Thanksgiving tradition, but some elderly living in the city have outlived their loved ones.
On Thursday, Tocqueville restaurant located near Union Square opened up its doors to help feed 40 needy elderly residents. It was also a family affair for the restaurant, with three generations of owner Jo-Ann Makovitzky’s family pitching in with everything from serving to washing dishes.
“We are open every year on Thanksgiving and I don’t get to spend time with my family,” said Makovitzky. “I thought this would be a great way to spend time with them and help out.”
After Superstorm Sandy tore through New York, Makovitzky wanted to help and reached out to Citymeals, a nonprofit that provides meals to homebound seniors during weekends, holidays, and emergencies.
In less than two weeks, Citymeals organized seniors from the Lower East Side, many who survived by food delivery from Citymeals following the storm, and Makovitzky rallied her family to help. “I was glad we were able to get everything worked out in such a short time,” she said.
As the seniors disembarked from a charter bus, which was donated by Campus Coach Lines, children greeted the seniors with “Happy Thanksgiving!” and shook their hands to welcome their special guests. The seniors’ faces lit up, uplifted by the warm greeting.
“I love to be able to see our guests smile on Thanksgiving,” Francesca Moreira, 10, said.
Once inside, Makovitzky’s three nieces took their coats and everyone sat down for a delicious holiday feast.
Food for the Soul
Marco Moreira, chef, proprietor, and Makovitzky’s husband, wanted his guests to enjoy the same high quality, traditional three-course meal served at Tocqueville’s annual Thanksgiving dinner: butternut squash soup, organic free-range turkey, with string beans, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin and pecan pie for dessert.
In addition, each guest received an extra touch: a homemade pumpkin muffin and a holiday card.
“It feels good to do something nice for other people,” Moreira said.
Candida Silva, 68, a Citymeals on Wheels recipient and volunteer, commented on how impressed she was with the delicious fare. “It’s like a home meal with family,” she said.
After spending the past several Thanksgivings with her daughters, she told them she would have to break tradition this year. “This year I said I wanted to share Thanksgiving with my seniors. I love to be around them,” Silva said.
Moreira was thankful to help 40 people but has high hopes for a bigger feast next year. “This was our first shot. Hopefully next year we will be able to do more.”
Feeding Sandy Victims
Citymeals provided an additional 64,000 meals after Superstorm Sandy, including to 19,000 recipients who were not registered to receive them. It has stretched its resources very thin at the organization, which relies primarily on private funds.
“We were put to the test,” Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals-on-Wheels said of its extra effort. “But it’s what we do.”
During emergency situations, such as big storms, Citymeals is New York City’s emergency food provider. Shapiro reported during the storm the warehouse in Brooklyn was nearly emptied to meet the extra demand.
With winter on the horizon and unknown weather events in the future, Shapiro said financial donations are much needed to ensure no one goes without.
At the end of the meal, the seniors presented an envelope with some money they had collected as a tip for the hardworking family. Makovitzky said she and her family would donate it all back to Citymeals, giving Shapiro one more thing to be thankful for. “It shows the giving and the familial relationship of the season,” she said.
A smiling Mimi Makovitzky, Jo-Ann’s mother, stood back, beaming with pride. “In my opinion, as the matriarch of this family, I think this is my daughter’s greatest achievement,” she said. “My Thanksgiving is so full from this—not from my belly, but my heart.”
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