For most adults, the idea that Christmas is a season that should be focused on giving, not getting, is nothing new; however, the nature of giving is an important aspect that can’t be summed up in a one-line platitudes. Yes, do give gifts to the people you love and cherish, but also consider those of us forced to prioritize putting food on the table, rather than presents under the tree. Citizens 4 Humanity is working to feed those East End families and spread the holiday cheer, but they need support to do it.
C4H cofounders Marco and Sheila Barrila first began their mission to “try and feed as many people as we can” when the Red Cross requested their help to feed East End families displaced by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. From there, they built relationships with the schools that were acting as shelters and knew of others in need. They started out with a list of about 10 families who needed more regular food support, and they’ve grown to be able to provide food for over 250 families this past Thanksgiving. And these weren’t cans and boxes of ingredients, they were full turkey dinners prepared by NYC Top 40 chef and founder of Shinnecock Lobster Factory and Insatiable Eats Catering Marco Barrila and his volunteers.
Operating out of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons and other local kitchens in years past, for Thanksgiving 2021, Chef Barrila was finally able to prepare holiday deliveries in his own space — his soon-to-open eatery at the home of the former Michelangelo of Riverhead, Insatiable Eats Creative Kitchen. “I feel like, ah, this is my kitchen now,” Barrila says, emphasizing that his team no longer had to work around the schedule of their former host kitchens, which contributed to this year’s success.
“We learned a lot about the families that we served for Thanksgiving, because we had two people dedicated to just calling people and organizing to get the food to their houses at a certain time,” adds Sheila, the organization’s deputy volunteer and lead organizer. “People were sharing their stories with us, and so we know that there are some people who really have next to nothing — people without jobs, people who are ill and all those situations.”
Now through Christmas, C4H is looking to spread some additional “holiday hope” with weekly meal deliveries and other acts of kindness, Sheila continues. Some families need a car or home repair, for instance, so C4H is looking for either donations to hire repairmen, or for repairmen to donate their services this holiday. Those with other skills are encouraged to donate their time, as well.
On December 22, C4H begins its Christmas dinner preparations, and they’re looking for volunteers of all sorts: drivers, farm pickup help, kitchen staff and packaging people. After a few days of intense preparation, the ham and roast beef dinners will be sent out to a list of referrals from local individuals, school districts, churches and the Hampton Bays Senior Center on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
“How can we celebrate the holiday when other people can’t?” Barrila asks. “So the feeling that they’re celebrating like everybody else, that’s what I think is most important.”
As a donor-based organization, none of this holiday hope is possible without donations, and C4H is working toward $10,000 raised to fund all of their Christmas endeavors. All tax-deductible donations are used for food, packaging materials and other items essential to serving the East End’s most in-need senior citizens, single moms and other families. The organization is also looking to acquire a large warehouse where they can store donated furniture and other large items until they are requested by somebody in need of one.
In addition to volunteering and donations, the community can support C4H through Insatiable Eats Creative Kitchen, which will have its soft opening on Saturday, December 4. Located at 300 East Main Street in Riverhead, the new eatery will host a week of grand opening events beginning December 13, which culminates in a ribbon cutting with the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce on December 18.
“If you need food, if your kids are starving at home or anything, just call our organization, and we’re going to make sure we’re going to provide food,” Barrila says. “And now even better, because I have a restaurant and I cook every day, I can feed people every day.”
To reach out to Citizens 4 Humanity about assistance, volunteering or donations, visit citizens4humanity.org or call 631-800-6514.