By Paula Katinas
EAST FLATBUSH — The record-breaking level of inflation currently gripping the U.S. economy has taken a huge toll on Yvonne Roman’s food budget, so much so, she said, that “I haven’t bought meat in ages. It’s too expensive.”
But Roman will be having a turkey for Thanksgiving, despite the high price for the bird — nearly $2 per pound according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (73% higher than last year) — thanks to Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens (CCBQ), which distributed free turkeys at her church, Holy Innocents in Flatbush, on Monday, Nov. 21.
Bishop Robert Brennan came to the church that morning to offer a blessing and help hand out turkeys to the hundreds of people who lined up in the cold on the sidewalk around the church.
Roman, who brought her shopping cart with her to put the turkey in, said she was grateful for the food donation.
“It means the world to me,” she said. “I will be able to have a Happy Thanksgiving because of this.”
More than 1,000 people — including many who arrived before sunrise — stood on a line that wrapped around the entire block of Holy Innocents and patiently waited to receive turkeys. The distribution, which took place inside the church’s front gate, resembled a smooth-running assembly line, with an army of CCBQ folks moving the recipients along.
Debra Hampson, senior director of community outreach services for CCBQ, said the organization was prepared to distribute 650 turkeys Monday, but she added that no one would go away empty-handed because when the turkeys ran out, people would be given vouchers to enable them to shop for Thanksgiving food.
“There’s such a great need. We’re seeing even more this year between inflation and gas prices,” Hampson said. “Our pantry numbers have more than doubled, and turkeys (have) skyrocket in price as well. So we’re very grateful that we’re able to do this.”
The cost of the Thanksgiving meal, including the turkey and all of the side dishes, has increased 20% this year over 2021, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The turkeys were donated to the CCBQ by Al and Maria Catanese, who are continuing a seven-year family tradition of making the contribution. Also making donations to ensure the success of the day were Ace Endico, EJ Electric, Empire BlueCross/BlueShield, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, the Steamfitters Union, and Univision Nueva York Contigo.
Bishop Brennan said he noticed the long line as soon as he arrived.
“As we were driving up well before the distribution was to begin, we could see the line.,” he said. “I thought, ‘That’s a pretty long line.’ And I realized that actually, the line went around the corner and down the next block.”
Bishop Brennan, who was distributing the turkeys here in the Diocese of Brooklyn for the first time, said that while the turkey distribution was notable, it was par for the course for CCBQ.
“This is kind of special because it’s a holiday, Thanksgiving Day. But the reality is that Catholic Charities, through our parishes and various different programs here in the churches, are present to people all the time,” he explained. “This is a special event for a special day, but it’s a year-round relationship.”
After receiving her turkey, Yvette Payne said she was relieved that the worry over how to pay for Thanksgiving had been lifted from her shoulders.
“It is nice that they do this for us,” she said.
Monday’s Thanksgiving turkey giveaway was the third this month for CCBQ. On Nov. 15, The organization went to two sites — Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Jamaica and Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Corona. Between the two locations, a total of 2,100 turkeys and vouchers were distributed.
Father Patrick Keating, deputy chief executive officer and chief financial officer of CCBQ, said the organization “is just trying to live out the Gospel message, ‘I was hungry, and you fed me.’ ”