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Special Early Thanksgiving Dinner Held For Sandy Victims On Staten Island

Staten Island Thanksgiving

Michael Gallo, 102, was among those who came out for a free Thanksgiving dinner on Staten Island. (Credit: CBS 2)

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Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It has been more than three weeks of hardship for residents of Staten Island who were all but destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. But on Wednesday night, they tried to forget about it all as they enjoyed a free Thanksgiving dinner.

As CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported, it was not the traditional dinner at home, but it was five-star food. And residents still had plenty for which to give thanks.

WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reports

“I’ll tell you the truth, we’ve been going through so much,” said Stephanie Scalzo, “that just coming out is a break, you know?”

It was the first year Scalzo could not host a homemade Thanksgiving for her family and grandchildren, but she had not lost perspective.

The free meal, provided by Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, will ultimately feed about 1,000 families. Some of those families still do not have power or heat.

“We invited everyone that was in the flood area,” Molinaro said.

All of the food was prepared by chefs at the Vanderbilt South Beach, which is a five-star catering hall. The turkeys were donated by ShopRite and prepared by the chefs.

“It’s just a nice, nice thing that they’re doing, you know, putting it out,” said Eddie Federico of Midland Beach, who was taking time away from the cleanup so he could enjoy the special Thanksgiving feast with his family.

“We got just to eat today, and we’re just taking it day by day right now,” Federico said. “It’s going to be a while before everyone gets together.”

Irena Millman told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith that she cannot go back to her severely flooded-out home. She was touched by the offering.

“Staten Island is the only place I know that is really a family,” she said.

Staten Island residents of all ages were in attendance, including 102-year-old Michael Gallo, who said he is not used to dining out on Thanksgiving but had no problem appreciating the gesture.

“I had all hors d’oeuvres, so I’m enjoying it,” Gallo said.

And while it wasn’t the traditional Thanksgiving at home, everyone was grateful for something – be it surviving the worst storm of a centenarian lifetime on Staten Island, or, from a child’s point of view, that new pair of sneakers like the ones Frank Paoli said of his new shoes.

Molinaro said he was humbled by the dinner.

“It’s a poor substitute for the original, but yet it’s something,” he said. “And it comes with a lot of love, a lot of commitment, from me and the community.”

Molinaro said residents were showing their commitment to supporting storm victims in any way they can.

After the dinner, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation gave the children at the event new clothes and book bags for school.

A special Thanksgiving lunch was also held Wednesday for residents and relief workers in the storm- and fire-damaged community of Breezy Point, Queens.

Have you done anything special for victims of Superstorm Sandy? Tell us about it below…