Sandy Forces Parishes to Rethink Thanksgiving Programs

St. Mary and St. Ignatius churches to hold holiday dinner with Swingbelly's at Ice Arena.

Arriving late during hurricane season, Sandy landed in Long Beach two days before the start of November, and her wrath was destructive enough to knock out Thanksgiving plans for at least two congregations in town. But alternative plans are in the works.  

Blanca Cales, the director of Parish Social Ministration Program at St. Mary of the Isle Church and St. Ignatius Martyr Church, said she decided last Sunday to cancel the annual Thanksgiving food baskets program this year due to the storm’s citywide devastation, including at the two parishes.

“I still had hopes to do the baskets but it’s been too overwhelming with the hurricane relief,” Cales said at St. Mary’s Parish Hall on Thursday.

The parish has held its Thanksgiving drive for more than two decades, feeding families throughout the barrier island. In recent years, it has been able to provide for more families by joining hands with area schools by collecting canned goods starting in October, as well as local organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and Lions Club. The baskets typically come with a variety of Thanksgiving staples, including stuffing, pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes, cranberries and, of course, turkeys.

This Thanksgiving, though, will be celebrated less than a month after the storm that has caused an estimated $200 million in damages to the city. So the focus will remain on devoting the parish's food pantry to fulfilling the hurricane victim’s basic needs. “People still don’t have power or gas even to cook,” Cales said.

But a plan B is in place. Cales is working on hosting two Thanksgiving dinners in town. The parish has already teamed up with Swingbelly’s, a barbeque restaurant in the West End, to supply a dinner at the Long Beach Ice Arena from 12 to 4 p.m. on the holiday. She would also like to host another dinner that day at the Long Beach Catholic Regional School, located on West Broadway adjacent to St. Ignatius, but those plans are still pending.  

Looking ahead, her goal is to make sure the parish’s Christmas program goes on as planned next month, as it does each December.

“We’re hoping for Christmas to do baskets and toys and gift certificates,” she said.   


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