COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Back in December, CBS2 introduced viewers to a Long Island community’s pandemic-inspired effort to give to people in need.

Since our first story, its “sharing tables” project has grown to help countless families in Commack and surrounding towns, CBS’s Jenna DeAngelis reported Thursday.

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It started around the holidays as a table outside Rachel Gentile’s home in Commack. The idea was simple: Take what you need, leave what you can — if you can.

But it has turned into something more.

“We started with one table, five cans and hope,” Gentile said. “No longer are we being known as the sharing table, because we’ve grown to so much more than just a table.”

The change started earlier this year when, unexpectedly, the town told Gentile she had to relocate the table due to traffic safety concerns.

“The JCC contacted us and it was a union made in heaven,” she said.

The Suffolk Y JCC, which was already working to fight food insecurity, offered a new home for the table.

(credit: CBS2)

“SYJCC invested in redoing this entire space to see how it looks now, because we wanted people to be able to come in and shop in a dignified way,” said Tina Block, from Suffolk Y JCC.

Together, they turned the sharing table into a community pantry.

“We now have the luxury of having a fridge and freezer,” Gentile said as she gave DeAngelis a tour.

A major benefit of the new location: a storage room so they can quickly replenish items on the shelves.

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For some, this is a way to give back.

Maria Molina, who lost her job during the pandemic and relied on donations to help feed her family, said she gives back in a different way.

“I don’t know how to pay back, so I can pay with my time,” Molina said.

The Suffolk Y JCC offered Molina a part-time job, which shows how this effort is turning so many lives around.

“The other thing we can do is we can bring social work assistance to this space,” Block said. “Any family that’s coming here, we try to give them information, phone numbers for who they can call at the Suffolk Y JCC to help them with other things.

“Commack sharing table has been such a blessing to so many families, including my own, and Rachel, with her golden heart, has helped so many families,” said Siran Kasparyan, a volunteer.

It’s also helped Gentile, who’s coping with the loss of her husband.

“I’ve kind of displaced all of the emotions I was felling and channeled them to being here and seeing it thrive and grow,” Gentile said. “And from the way things look right now, it’s only going to keep getting bigger and better.”

The pantry at the Suffolk Y JCC is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Perishable items can be donated Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nonperishables can be donated any time the pantry is open.

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Organizers said they frequently run out of cleaning supplies, paper goods, toiletries, baby supplies and perishables, like fruits and vegetables.

Jenna DeAngelis