This post was written by Rev. Karen Jackson, Director of Recovery and Community Initiatives, Project Hospitality.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, now is the perfect time to focus on why we serve our respective communities. Project Hospitality is primarily in the business of feeding people. Our feeding ministries are part of our commitment to ensure that our neighbors are getting access to the food and other services they need to sustain themselves.
Especially during the holidays, our staff spread out like worker bees, picking up donations of food from restaurants and school drives to be distributed from our food pantry, the largest on Staten Island. Every Thanksgiving, we give out over 1,500 frozen turkeys to low-income Staten Islanders and organize community dinners where our neighbors can come for a free, hot meal to celebrate the holiday.
At the same time, we can help the people we serve gain access to benefits like health coverage. That is why Project Hospitality has partnered with Single Stop U.S.A. to employ benefits specialists who can screen Staten Islanders for public benefits and provide application assistance. They help with benefits such as health coverage, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). Project Hospitality also has five trained Navigators who can help clients apply through New York’s state-based marketplace (NY State of Health).
Project Hospitality recently partnered with Food Bank for New York City’s “Thankful to Give” campaign to support people affected by Superstorm Sandy. In addition to receiving food for a full Thanksgiving dinner, 250 attendees completed a Single Stop intake form screening them for benefits and giving consent for a specialist to follow up with them. Not only did people leave grateful for the food and the opportunity to gain health coverage (many for the first time), but our Navigators are looking forward to helping them take the next step and enroll.
This event highlights one creative way that we provided families with immediate assistance: a meal as well as access to health coverage. Our hope is that these families will enjoy a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and also the long-term security and peace of mind that comes through access to health coverage, SNAP, and other benefits.