Helping where it's most needed

Vicki Hermansen | May 28, 2020

Oceanside Kiwanis Club

Tony Iovino, a long-time member of the Kiwanis Club of Oceanside, New York, saw an opportunity for partnership.

As the assistant director of Oceanside Library, Iovino strives to connect local businesses with projects that benefit the community. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he leveraged the library’s connections and the generosity of Kiwanis club members with the need of local restaurants that were losing money after social distance regulations forced them to close.

Now they’re all working together to provide meals for first responders.

Oceanside Kiwanis ClubThe club decided to hold an online fundraising project to raise money for meals prepared by local eateries. The library connected the club to a local foundation that contributed with a US$20,000 grant. The project took off.

“In my role with the library I’ve always put groups together in town to do joint projects,” Iovino said. “I do a lot of fundraising for Kiwanis, so when we started talking about doing this food project, it seemed like a great idea because our club does a lot of work with the (Mt. Sinai South Nassau) hospital.

“I called the hospital because I knew they would need something, and they said sending food would be great. We also deliver to the Oceanside Fire Department and emergency medical technicians.”

Along with the library’s email list, the club put its own social media channels and its PayPal account to use, asking members to share the project on their social channels. The club began with US$27,000 to help the local economy and provide a meal for hard-working first responders.

“Almost 150 people have made donations,” Iovino said. “Plus, Kiwanis threw in a large donation, and we got a donation from the Knights of Columbus, the Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanettes.”

Ultimately, he adds, it became a total community project. “If we had done it alone, just as Kiwanis, we would have done well and probably served a couple of meals. But bringing in the library and the others has really ramped this up.”  

Any club can manage such a project, Iovino said. The first step is reaching out to the recipients — in this case, the hospital and fire department — to determine the need and scheduling. The Oceanside club orders breakfast, lunch and dinner for various drop-off times and works with the recipients to schedule times and meals needed.

Iovino then contacts the restaurants to determine which group can prepare and deliver the meals.

“We order 200 sandwiches or wraps at a time, so I split the food between two restaurants for each order, to spread the money around,” he said.

The restaurants have offered discounts, but the club has insisted on paying full price to help them weather the storm.

“It’s all non-contact and it really helps everyone,” Iovino said. “It’s no risk, it pumps money back into the local restaurants and it’s a great way to give back.”

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