Members of the East Meadow Fire Department and the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association joined elected officials, two Marines and local residents outside Stew Leonard’s on Nov. 21, where roughly 50 boxes of turkeys were ready to be delivered to local charities for Thanksgiving.
One after another, cars and trucks pulled up to the building, and were loaded with turkeys. To help those who might not otherwise have a Thanksgiving celebration, Stew Leonard’s began a tradition in 1979 of giving turkeys to charities in the communities surrounding its supermarkets. At the East Meadow supermarket, which opened in 2017, that tradition is in its third year.
Roughly 250 turkeys were donated locally to roughly 10 nonprofits and food pantries run by churches, civic groups, senior-care programs and schools. In total, the company distributed 3,000 turkeys to roughly 100 groups in East Meadow, Farmingdale and Yonkers in New York; Norwalk, Newington and Danbury in Connecticut; and Paramus, N.J.
Charles Leo Leonard started Clover Farms Dairy in Norwalk in the early 1920s. In 1969, his son Stew converted it into a retail dairy store that he called Stew Leonard’s. In 1987, Stew Jr. took over what eventually expanded into a six-store chain in Connecticut and New York. In December 2016, the chain opened its first Long Island location in Farmingdale and, about six months later, it introduced its second in East Meadow.
Since it opened, the store has hosted many community events and celebrations. For the “Turkey Brigade,” the Stew Leonard’s team invited people throughout the community to help deliver them.
They included Gunnery Sgt. John Sardine and Sgt. Jake Stanuch, both of the Marine Corps’ 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines unit in Garden City, as well as members of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association. James McDermott, PBA president, gave a check for $5,000 to Britt Leonard to help pay for the turkeys.
“Three thousand families will have a turkey on their table this Thanksgiving that they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Leonard said. “We’re so proud to be here, and to be part of the East Meadow community.”
Marie Testa, superintendent of the North Bellmore School District, pulled up in her vehicle, and introduced herself to Dona Seal, the supermarket’s assistant front-end manager. “Thank you so much for this,” Testa said. “It means a lot to our community.”
Geri Barish, founder of Hewlett House, which supports those living with cancer, and 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition, described the gratitude she saw in the residents of the house last year, some nearing the end of their lives when the Stew Leonard’s turkeys were delivered. “This meant so much to them to have their friends and family together for their last meal,” Barish said, presenting Leonard with a certificate of appreciation.
Charities can apply to be beneficiaries of the Turkey Brigade, but others were selected after a representative of Stew Leonard’s called them and asked if they needed help with stocking their food pantries. “We called churches, schools and other nonprofits and asked if this is something they may need this year,” Seal said. “Some of people we called were surprised. They were all very grateful to be included.”