SOMERS, N.Y. - Putting food on the table can be hard for some in the best of times, but the pandemic-induced economic lockdown has ratcheted up the hidden hunger problem.
Matt Gullotta knows what’s it’s like to need a leg up.
He was just a little boy when his parents’ Tarrytown apartment was destroyed in a fire in 1975. Then, in 2007, unexpected medical bills wiped out Gullotta and his wife Cinthia’s savings.
Inspired by the help he received from the community, he formed Gullotta House, a nonprofit that raises money for people in need.
Now, the Briarcliff Manor-based organization is partnering with multiple sponsors in Somers to provide healthy, hot meals to the community and first responders during the coronavirus crisis.
Wearing fabric face masks instead of capes, those local superheroes are The Grille at Somers Pointe, Soup Ninja Inc., Stephanie’s Mission, Café Realty, Carol Christiansen of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, the Somers Record, the Somers PTA and many, many anonymous donors.
Gullotta House is also working with sponsors in Ossining, Pleasantville, Briarcliff Manor, Peekskill, Mount Kisco and Tarrytown. All of the restaurants provide the meals at a cost of about $3 apiece.
So far, the effort has used the money raised to deliver 13,000 meals throughout Westchester County, 2,000 of them in Somers.
Among those on the receiving end are the homebound, the numbers of whom have skyrocketed due to illness and social distancing rules.
According to Perry DiNapoli, owner of The Grille at Somers Pointe, none of this could have been accomplished without the public’s support and the volunteers’ efforts.
Like all restaurants, The Grille, which is located at Heritage Hills’s golf club, has been closed due to the shutdown. But its kitchen is still open for takeout and curbside pickup. It is hoping to ratchet up home deliveries.
On Thursdays, yummies from The Grille, and Soup Ninja, a Katonah business, are packed up and delivered to Somers High School at 120 Primrose St., Lincolndale, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., and at The Grille at 1000 West Hill Drive North, Heritage Hills, from 5 to 6 p.m.
All recipients have to do is drive up, pop their trunk and be-gloved and mask-wearing volunteers will safely place the goodies inside.
So far, the response has been “great,” said DiNapoli, who’s thrilled to have been given the chance to help the community out.
“There are two ways we can get through this thing: being negative or being positive. I choose to be positive,” he said.
The effort will go on as long as there’s a need.
“It’s the right thing to do; people need to eat,” the restaurateur said.
Christiansen, praising volunteers, sponsors and donors, said those on the receiving end appear to be “so grateful and pleased.”
“I’m honored to have been a part of it. Somers is a great community,” she said.
To Gullotta, who with his wife has two children, Amilia and Matthew, it’s all about “neighbors helping neighbors.” He pointed to a mail carrier in Briarcliff who picks up meals for herself and 10 others in need.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said, referring to the stores of compassion and caring that the COVID-19 disaster has uncovered.
The recipients of the organization’s efforts have likewise been generous. Volunteers have gotten many “God bless yous” and even homemade cookies and bread.
“Humanity is the biggest part of this. It’s people coming together saying: ‘Here’s the crisis. This is what we can do.’ ”
“And it’s working. It’s spreading,” he said.
For more information, visit www.gullottahouse.org.
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