Free meals for those in need in Elmira
ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Dozens of people gathered at the Neighborhood Transformation Center in Elmira for a free, hot meal. The Neighborhood Transformation Center gives away two free meals on Mondays and Thursdays, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
"Tonight I think we had 52 (people.) We average anywhere between 35 and sometimes 60. The later it is in the month, the more people we tend to feed because with SNAP benefits there's been a decrease, and so people are going to be hungrier," said Debbie Sebura, free meal coordinator with the Neighborhood Transformation Center.
Everyone who helped serve food and drinks, cook, and clean up were volunteers. "We have people that come and wash dishes, after they’ve worked all day. We have people from the neighborhood that come, and everyone that does it because they want to help. No one does it for notoriety," said Sebura.
A few of those volunteers were members of the Elmira Mammoth (Dalton Anderson, Christopher Maratea, Nick Gullo, and Justin Schmit). Gullo, an assistant captain for the Mammoth said it's an honor to be able to give back to the community. "There's a ton of great people here in Elmira, we’re fortunate enough to be a part of that community in Elmira. Any way we can help out, whether it’s here giving out some meals or walking animals, we’re huge advocates of that," said Gullo.
Gullo said he thinks of himself as just a hockey player, but to some people and kids in the community, he's a celebrity. "I can remember as a kid, I used to think that way, so whatever we can to do be able to be a good influence to the younger generation, to show them how to be good people, … that’s kind of the role we want to play here," said Gullo.
Sebura thought having a couple members of the Mammoth come out to volunteer was wonderful. She said the team actually reached out to her to help the Free Meal Program out. "They were delightful. The biggest thing no one likes to do because they’re intimidated is pass the juice cart. Two of the hockey players jumped right in and they loved it. I think they were entertaining the people as much as the people were entertaining them. It was wonderful to have them," said Gullo.
Gullo said for anyone who may be in a tough situation right now, it's okay to ask for help. "It’s never a shame to ask for help. We’ve all been in tough spots in our life before and there’s so many programs out there to help people who might just need a little kick-start to get back on their feet. With programs like this, it’s fantastic," said Gullo.
The next free meal will be on Thursday, March 30th from 5 to 6 p.m.