In light of the upcoming Hindu holiday of Diwali, which falls this year on Nov. 14, the Valley Stream Diwali Coalition partnered with Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, to donate hundreds of dollars worth of food to Long Island Cares, a local food bank, to feed the hungry and food insecure on Long Island.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, outside the Valley Stream Presbyterian Church, members of the Diwali Coalition stacked $200 worth of donated non-perishable food items to prepare for the contribution. The effort was the start of Diwali Coalition’s new initiative of giving back to Long Islanders in need around the Diwali season on an annual basis.
“The Diwali Coalition is made up of just me and my three family members, but we hope that it will grow among the community,” Valley Streamer Abigail Arjune, 19, said. “I was blessed with two parents, a sister and a warm and loving home. I’m doing better than most people in the world, so I’ve learned the importance of giving back, which is the foundation of Diwali.”
Arjune, said she and her family founded the Diwali Coalition group three years ago In an effort to demonstrate to the neighborhood that Hindus value both the cultural and religious aspects of their faith. The group’s primary goal has been to work to establish Diwali on the Valley Stream school calendar as a religious holiday eligible for an excused absence. The Coalition’s members have appeared before Valley Stream school boards on various occasions to try to achieve their goal. They have so far been unsuccessful, but said they would not give up.
“We will continue to work until we have this for our kids,” said Arjune’s mother, Geeta, who is also a member of the coalition. “We hope to effect change in the community and to encourage Hindu and non-Hindu residents and people elsewhere to join this special effort.”
Solages, who helped contribute in partnership to the donation with the coalition said that she is open to exploring legislation to get Diwali recognized on the school calendar in Valley Stream schools.
“Abby has been doing great advocacy for this very celebratory occasion and I support her work because all holidays should be accommodated,” she said. “Right now, my team and I are primarily focusing on pandemic related legislation, but we don’t know where we will be in a few weeks in regards to getting legislation passed to get Diwali recognized on the school calendar. I can’t promise it will be done, but I can’t say no.”
Although not a member of the Coalition, Valley Stream resident, Steve Vaccaro, also made a food donation to the group’s effort because he said he believes that helping others is vital.
“Everybody should put others first because it’s a very difficult time in the world and it’s important to help people who are underprivileged,” he said. “Many people are unemployed and in-need during this pandemic, so it’s important to help them because it empowers them.”