Dinner at Gargiulo’s to raise money for food pantry, other programs
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Bensonhurst-based food pantry that has fed thousands of Brooklyn residents over the years is holding a fundraiser later this month so that it can continue to feed the hungry.
Reaching-Out Community Services Inc., which operates a food pantry out of a storefront at 7708 New Utrecht Ave., will hold its Sixth Annual Benefit Dinner on Friday, May 30, at Gargiulo’s Restaurant at 291 West 15th Street in Coney Island, at 7 p.m.
The dinner will feature music, an auction of gifts and raffles. The honorees are: Connors and Sullivan Attorneys at Law; Elaine Delaney, parent coordinator at PS 186; Maria Hunter, a volunteer at Reaching-Out; the US Marine Toys for Tots program; and Ilene Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council.
Established several years ago by Thomas Neve, a retired city sanitation worker, Reaching-Out Community Services offers a variety of services. In addition to the food pantry, the non-profit organization provides social service referrals, nutrition and health care education, free tax assistance, and summer tutoring.
Reaching-Out’s New Utrecht Avenue headquarters is “a place where our low income neighbors are treated with respect,” said Rocco Coluccio, a volunteer at the center. Coluccio and another volunteer, Sonia Valentin, spoke at a Community Board 11 meeting in Bensonhurst on May 8 about Reaching-Out and the services it provides.
The food pantry has helped 5,300 families in the last year alone, according to Valentin. The need for programs like Reaching Out has grown in recent years, she said. “Five years ago, there were only 800 families,” she said, referring to the number of families requiring help at the food pantry at that time.
When the economy went down, it took a lot of families with it, Valentin said. Looking out at the members of the community board seated in the audience, she said that Reaching Out’s clients include many middle-class residents who suddenly found themselves unemployed and unable to feed their families. Many of the clients “probably live next door to you,” she said.
Reaching-Out also hosts events throughout to the year to ensure families who are struggling financially that they have not been forgotten. At the Big Backpack Giveaway, held in late August before the start of the school year, hundreds of free backpacks are distributed to kids so that they can fit in with their peers in the classroom. The organization holds Operation Gobble Giving a few days before Thanksgiving, distributing free turkeys with all the trimmings to families in need. Another holiday treat is Operation Christmas Smiles, a party that Reaching-Out hosts for children. Toys are given to the kids, who also get a chance to meet Santa Claus and enjoy a magic show.
While Reaching-Out offers a diverse set of programs, it is perhaps best known for its food pantry. The pantry is set up to look like a supermarket so that clients can feel like they are shopping for food rather than getting food as a handout.
For more information of Reaching-Out Community Services Inc. call 718-373-4565.