Jackie Herman, the chapter leader at IS 98 in Brooklyn, has volunteered every year at the Thanksgiving Luncheon that the UFT Middle School Division hosts with the Coalition for the Homeless since it was first held five years ago. But the event never ceases to pull at her heartstrings.
“Last year when we gave a coat to one of the children, he said, ‘I don’t get a coat — I had ice cream already,’” recalled Herman, joined by her school’s UFT delegate Tina Schneider as they helped a group of children being served lunch. “I told him he got both, and he wanted to hand me the birdhouse he made in exchange. I told him he got to keep that, too.”
About 200 children from eight homeless shelters across the city were provided with a bounty of winter clothing after enjoying a scrumptious Thanksgiving-themed lunch that included ice cream sundaes. The Nov. 17 event at UFT headquarters also featured crafts, tattoos, face painting and a nail and hair salon run by students from Queens Technical HS.
The coats and winter accessories came from donations or from money raised by UFT members and the Municipal Credit Union, the event’s co-sponsor.
“I love Thanksgiving — it’s my favorite holiday,” said UFT Vice President for Middle Schools Richard Mantell, who organized the event. “There are way too many homeless kids and we want to help them fully appreciate and understand the meaning of this great day.”
On hand to help out and take it all in were UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and about three dozen volunteers like Lance Schatzman, the chapter leader at PS 329 in Brooklyn.
“Being able to go to school with a nice new winter coat can make a huge difference for these children,” said Schatzman, who was volunteering for the third straight year. “Their faces glow when they receive them, and it gives you goose bumps just seeing their joy.”
New MCU President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Ricca spent the event serving and checking in on the children with his staff. “These children have enough challenges in their lives,” he said, “and if we can make it easier for them, there’s nothing better you can do.”