Grandma’s Love is living up to its name in time for the holidays.
The organization, founded in 2015, is dedicated to distributing food, books and other items to children in area schools who are in need.
“It’s a weekly food program that gives backpacks of staples to families that are in need whose children show up in school Monday not functioning well,” said Theresa Monforte-Caraballo, the organization’s founder. “Some kids show up with no lunch or ask to share lunches. Sometimes there’s not enough food in the household which causes this.”
School social workers talk to teachers and then they refer the families to the program, which runs every week from September to June. “We make sure they have enough food for weeks they have off from school,” Monforte-Caraballo said.
“Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful and spending time with friends and family,” she said. “Sadly, that’s not always possible for everyone. Last year, we teamed up with St. Joseph’s College and they run a food drive for us along with our own food drives here in Bay Ridge to be able to get the foods that are normal for Thanksgiving like stuffing, cranberries, vegetables and turkey and we put together a food bag for each family we serve.”
Monforte-Caraballo, a former classroom teacher, said she saw how kids would be negatively impacted by not having a Thanksgiving meal.
“When the children come back from the Thanksgiving break, some of them say, ‘Oh I went to my aunt’s house, we had turkey and did all these things,’ and children sometimes make up a story to fit in,” she explained. “We try to avoid that. We try to give them what most families have at Thanksgiving so kids can celebrate the holiday with friends and family, and come back on Monday to our classrooms and say they had turkey.”
Along with distributing 75 bags of food, up from 40 in 2015 and 50 last year, Grandma’s Love has added a new element for the noble cause.
“With the turkey drive, we also started a pen pal program with the students at St. Joseph College this year,” she said. “The college students are making cards and activity books to be included in each of the bags with a letter from the student to an elementary school student. And the elementary school student will respond after Thanksgiving. We hope to get writing going back and forth between the two. Our students will know there’s another kid out there that thinks about them.”
The act is also beneficial to the college students.
“A lot of them are education students and it enlightens them that you’re going to be walking into classrooms where things like this exist. We need to be sensitive to it,” said Monforte-Caraballo.
Grandma’s Love’s members and volunteers get a great sense of satisfaction for helping community.
“When you see the families come to pick up the turkey and their bag with the toddlers, I can’t even describe it,” Monforte-Caraballo said. “It just makes me happy that we can do this for them. No kid should ever be put in a position where they have to tell a fib. It makes me happy that someone can enjoy that one day and not worry about how they can afford it.”
On Monday, November 20, families from the program will be able to pick up their bags at P.S. 503, P.S. 506 and P.S. 264.
“I want to bring the realization that hunger exists whether you’re in the best or worst of neighborhoods,” Monforte-Caraballo added. “Situations arise and if we can just be more aware of what is going on around us, that would be a great Thanksgiving wish.”
To make a donation, visit www.grandmasloveinc.org/donate.