A giveaway and gratitude at the Cathedral
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Michael Pérez had been waiting in line for over an hour outside the United Palace Theater and Cathedral.
Was there a show? A sermon? No.
At the other end of a line that wrapped around the block was the centerpiece of the holiday meal for many: the turkey.
This past Mon., Nov. 19th, hundreds of free turkeys were distributed at United Palace Cathedral, an effort that counted on the sponsorship and collaboration of the Cathedral’s Pastor Jack Bomar; State Senator Adriano Espaillat; Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez; Assemblymember-Elect Gabriela Rosa; Julie Menin, a candidate for Manhattan Borough President, as well as numerous contributions from community members and local grocery stores and restaurants, including Gourmet Garage, Bravo Supermarket and El Malecon Restaurant.
“We are all called to support other people,” said Menin. “We know people will be sharing their turkey with others.”
Sharing was the theme of the day.
“I’m honored to be sharing this event with you,” said Assemblymember-Elect Rosa to the residents who had gathered.
While the turkey distribution was scheduled to start at 4 p.m., many, like Perez, had been in line before 3 p.m. He and his family of six would be sharing their turkey together.
Pérez said he and his wife would also share the work.
“She will cook, and I will wash the dishes,” he said with a grin that suggested he was already hankering for roast turkey.
After the first 500 turkeys were given away, a line still snaked out the door.
Expectant recipients anxiously peered into the windows of the Cathedral, but still, no one was being turned away. Plans were being made, explained organizers, to give those who had not received a turkey a voucher that they could use later.
“We’ve certainly had a larger turnout than anticipated,” said Pastor Jack Bomar. “The need is great.”
Indeed, if there were no turkeys on the shelves at the nearby Bravo Supermarket, it was because the store’s inventory had made its way to into the bright orange bags that were dispersed to residents at the Cathedral.
Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez offered an observant note in his remarks.
“We want to thank God for putting us in a place to help other people,” he said.
Earlier this month, Councilmember Rodriguez and other Northern Manhattan leaders raised $165,000 with an “Uptown Cares” telethon to assist with hurricane relief efforts.
Julius Castro helped his family score a turkey that day after waiting in line since 3 p.m. “I’m going to share this with a bunch of people,” he said. “I’m grateful for everything people are doing to help out.”
By five, Maria Montealegre was still waiting patiently for a turkey with her children. She reported that her daughters are looking at recipes to cook the family turkey.
“I’m a little nervous,” admitted her daughter Lucia about the culinary adventure ahead.
Montealegre shrugged off the possibility of not getting a turkey, and noted what she was most looking forward to was the time she’d spend with her family.
“If we don’t get a turkey here,” she said with a smile, “we’ll just do without.”
The United Palace Cathedral, located at 4140 Broadway will be serving Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.