Alphonse Catanese and his wife are known for giving out turkeys to needy families in New York City every Thanksgiving. They have been doing it for the past four years.
This year, amid the toll of the coronavirus pandemic, they choose to continue the tradition of giving the needy of Brooklyn and Queens a fitting Thanksgiving dinner. “With the help of God, we’ll continue to do it,” Alphonse said in an interview.
The tradition to give turkeys was actually the idea of Alphonse’s father. (Read: 4 Staple Foods Filipinos Serve During the Holidays) When Alphonse was young, his father would load hundreds of turkeys into a dump truck. And together with Alphonse and his brother, they would drive to brickyards and supply yards around Brooklyn and visit the people his father worked with throughout the year.
They would give each of them a turkey on Wednesday, before Thanksgiving. Then Alphonse’ dad would release all his employees early so they could prepare to celebrate the next day. (Read: 3 Secrets to Sustain a Grateful Mindset)
“I could never figure out why we used to do this. One day we finally ask our father and he goes, ‘You gotta understand. It’s nice to help people and Thanksgiving is a special time of year,” Alphonse said.
Continuing the Tradition
When Alphonse’s dad passed away in 2006, the tradition stopped until four years ago. “One day, I was sitting around and talking to my wife like, ‘Remember how it used to be this time of the year? We’d go crazy, pick up turkeys, put them in the dump truck, go out and take care of everybody?’” he said.
His wife then suggested they revive the tradition— they approached Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens and asked them what he could do. It comes as the group has been hosting a Turkey and Trimming Giveaway for over a decade. Each person gets a voucher for a turkey and a basket of items such as dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and stuffing to complete the Thanksgiving meal.
This year alone, they’ve already distributed nearly 1,600 turkeys and 1,200 produce boxes to families in need.
However, with the pandemic, the cost and availability of turkeys were affected. Alphonse’s business also took a revenue hit but he resolved not to waver from the commitment to help.
Not only are they committing to give 700 turkeys, but they have also decided to donate 200 more to a local church. (Read: 10 Bible Verses About God’s Call to Serve Others)
“There are a lot of people in a position worse than us,” he says. “There’s definitely a recurring need, and you see people who truly need it…This year we’re going to help 900 people. It’s a small amount compared to the millions of people that are in need, but from our end we’re doing as much as we can.”