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Citizens 4 Humanity Continues Efforts To Feed The Food Insecure During The Holidays

Anastasia Lennon

Chef Marco (right) prepares a turkeys. (Courtesy Photo)

Citizens 4 Humanity, a local, not-for-profit organization based in Water Mill, was founded by Sheila Barrila, April Minkel Jennings, and award winning master chef Marco Barrila. Beyond these three, the organization is comprised of chefs, farms, and local volunteers who want to help others in the community. Fulfilling its credo "Charity never faileth," the organization donates gourmet meals and other necessities to families in need throughout the year.

According to Citizens 4 Humanity's official site, over 25 percent of families fall below the poverty line. These local chefs and volunteers aim to bridge the gap and make up for the shortage of food at local food banks. This year marks its 6th annual mission to provide holiday meals specifically to struggling, single-mother families, and currently the organization has met less than half of its goal of feeding 50 to 75 families.

The Barrilas' efforts started six years ago, when they began cooking gourmet meals from scratch for families in need with their catering company, Insatiable Eats. They partner with local farms for produce, while Cromer's Country Market donates whole turkeys for the family meals. Chef Marco Barrila will then organize a team of volunteers to help cook, prepare, and deliver a packaged meal to the families. In addition, a portion of all proceeds from the catering company's regular services is used to sponsor East End families in need.

Sheila Barrila noted that this year was more difficult as crop yields were low and farms unable to donate as much, if any, to the organization. As a result, the Barrilas used a lot of their own money to support the programs and families that benefit from it.

"We cook them a gorgeous meal, a full turkey with all the side dishes and Briermere Farms on the North Fork gives us pies, and then we have the volunteers deliver the meals directly to the family's home," she noted. "We have been hard at work feeding families since Thanksgiving. As you might know our focus in on single mom families with great hardships. We have moms that don't have work, moms with cancer, moms with sick kids, moms with kids with disabilities, and we have single dads, too, that struggle with a lot of the same things."

Individuals have the option to sponsor a family by donating at Citizens 4 Humanity's website, and $100 can typically feed a family of five to six. The Barrilas will then go to the grocery store, purchase ingredients, and prepare a meal for one of the families on their list. Beyond food, the not-for-profit also welcomes other donations such as toiletries and clothing.

Every year, the organization sees about two or three families that are in very bad situations. Barrila emphasized a specific story of a family that recently moved to New York from Puerto Rico. "A mother in Flanders passed away leaving behind six children. The oldest, a 22 year-old daughter, is now left to care for her siblings and the father was laid off after the summer," she said. "These kids are very good, wonderful kids, but they are very poor and they are still wearing summer sandals and t-shirts, with no coats."

The story of this family resounds with Barrila, as she grew up with five siblings and was raised by a single mother. "It makes me happy to see the moms because I know how much they struggle every day just to take care of the little things," said Barrila. This family of six is in desperate need of donations for food, utilities, and warm clothing. Barrila is even looking for a dance school or gym to sponsor the family with dance classes or memberships to boost the children's confidence and give them something fun to do.

Citizen's 4 Humanity welcomes all donations and is looking for warm, winter clothing for this family. Sizes of the children vary from large to extra-large, and size 12 to 20. The organization has a long list of families in need and with each contribution, more families will be able to receive the help they need. "It's a lot of work for me, but it's worth it for these people," said Barrila. "It's something they remember forever."

For more information or to donate, please visit citizens4humanity.org. Additionally, there is a GoFundMe page to support the family of six from Puerto Rico, www.gofundme.com.

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