Article and photo by Fallon Moore
Frigid temperatures on Thanksgiving morning didn’t prevent 50 volunteers from braving the cold to show up at the Cypress Hills-Fulton Street Senior Center, which is located in the East New York section of Brooklyn, for its fourth annual Thanksgiving luncheon.
Michael Zambrano, the center’s executive director, Council Member Rafael Espinal of District 37 and board member Roopesh Ramjit organized the event, where hot turkey meals were served to approximately 250 diners, including invited guests from nearby domestic violence shelters.
“This luncheon is also open to the general public,” Zambrano said. “We have more than enough food and lots of people willing to serve.”
For some of the volunteers, Thursday’s luncheon was the first time they had given their time in the spirit of the holiday.
“It was my mom’s idea,” said Justin Pacheco, 19, a freshman at Marist College on a baseball scholarship, as he scooped stuffing onto plates. “This is my first time volunteering and I’m glad I came.”
Narish Ramjit a gym teacher at a Bushwick high school, was another first-time volunteer. “This year my brother asked me to come,” he said as his brother, Roopesh Ramjit, smiled and provided each plate he was handed with a scoop of mash potatoes. U whole family is here so where else would I be?”
During its normal weekday hours, the Cypress Hills-Fulton Street Senior Center provides a variety of activities including Zumba and meditation classes, dancing and presentations on financial management and nutrition. “We are a nonprofit organization funded by the Department of Aging. Membership is free and open to all seniors ages 60 and up,” Zambrano said. “We serve food every day with a suggested donation of $1.50 per meal. Donations improve the quality of the food and the quality of care.”
Lunch on Thanksgiving, however, is free. It was served at noon, but volunteers were asked to come at 10 a.m.
Espinal entered the kitchen already wearing a hair net and apron. As he served food, he took time to thank everyone. “This is such a terrific turn out, I want to thank everyone for coming,” he said.
After all the guests were served food, volunteers made to-go plates for those who wanted to bring food home to a relative or neighbor. The volunteers also were encouraged to sit down and eat once the guests started to taper off.
“The satisfaction of giving back is euphoric and pleasing to one’s soul. I’m so happy to share this experience with all of you. God Bless you all,” Zambrano said.