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INTERVIEW: Sheila Barrila On Citizens 4 Humanity’s Holiday Mission

T.J. Clemente

Citizens 4 Humanity volunteers ready to make their special deliveries. (Photo: Courtesy of Citizens 4 Humanity)

Citizens 4 Humanity is a charity whose focus is feeding those in need - especially single mother households through all of Southampton Town, from Flanders to Sag Harbor. They need to raise money before Christmas to handle the record daily numbers of households they are helping. They are approaching 200 meals a day. Citizens 4 Humanity is hoping to raise $5,000 through gofundme.com before Christmas Day to meet this seasonal rush. They are one-quarter of the way to that goal and need some financial help.

During an interview with Hamptons.com, Co-creator Sheila Barrila explained, "Citizens 4 Humanity was created as a grassroots, all volunteer organization. It started with my husband, he is a master chef, his name is Marco Barrila. He does a lot of events on the East End - such as the Hampton Classic, the concert series, events for the Ross School and other high profile events. He was first involved in the Sag Harbor Food Pantry. After doing a lot of events, they would have leftover food so Marco thought instead of throwing this prepared food away as they had done in the past, he kept it and donated it to the food pantry in Sag Harbor. That was really the first time that they ever accepted prepared food instead of food only in cans or boxes. It was really successful feeding local families."

So how did this evolve into Citizens 4 Humanity? Barrila tells the story, "I came from a single mother family of six and we have our own catering company called Insatiable Eats. It is based out of Southampton and we decided for the holidays, in addition to giving prepared food to the food pantries, we would start doing holiday meals for single mom families, because we knew we couldn't feed the whole East End, so we decided to have a focus. We contacted churches and schools to ask them if they have any knowledge of single mom families in need. We started by doing Thanksgiving and Christmas prepared hot meals about seven years ago. We worked with counselors from Westhampton to Southampton, we also help families in Sag Harbor and Flanders, even Riverhead - sort of all over the East End. Therefore, our organization grew."

Thanksgiving turkey pot pies. (Photo: Courtesy of Citizens 4 Humanity)

She continued, "Now my husband leads a team of volunteers in the kitchen who have cooked out of so many kitchens, because we need an industrial kitchen to produce the number of meals that we do. For example, this last Thanksgiving, we prepared around 164 hot meals. The past couple of years, we have used the kitchen of Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Southampton. This year, we have had two dozen volunteers and we actually gathered several days before Thanksgiving to start prepping. We had to do it in smaller numbers and different groups of people because of COVID. Then we have a whole new other crew of volunteers who come together and deliver the prepared hot meals to the doors of those in need and their families on Thanksgiving Day. "

Barrila said the long range plan is to have their own facility and perhaps delivery system to handle the ever-growing needs. "You see, one of the things I loved about my husband from the first day I met him is he has a kind heart," she said, "and we want to do this and do this right."

Therefore, she explained that although they have angel donors such as Kathleen King (Founder of Tate's cookies) and venues that actually donate food regularly and a wonderful group of unpaid volunteers, they do need some financial support to purchase things to facilitate the process, as well as food. "Every dollar received goes towards food purchasing and determines exactly how many number of families that get fed," she explained.

As Marco Barrila says on Citizens 4 Humanity's website: "We do more than just provide food; we inspire hope through our charity and love. Our efforts make miracles for others that usually come at the time they need it the most." To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com.

For more information, visit citizens4humanity.org.

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