There’s COVID. And then there’s kindness.
Sometimes, kindness is innate, with or without a pandemic, so in this case two socially conscious entities are teaming up. Toast Coffeehouse in Patchogue is joining with not-for-profit Harmony Café founder Rosemarie McCarthy to offer free traditional Thanksgiving meals for those who need one on Nov. 24.
It’s called Harmony Toast-giving.
They’ll distribute the packaged feasts, including turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and gravy, curbside between 6 and 8 p.m.; recipients who want to chow down at a table will be welcomed inside.
“We did it in 2018,” said Terry Scarlatos, Toast owner, of their first collaboration. “It reinforces why we do what we do. The staff pitched in and it gave us an opportunity to give back. Andre was adamant about it.”
That would be manager Andre du Chausse, 38.
“We felt this year was very important,” du Chausse said. “A lot of people are affected. In my age bracket, it’s been the toughest time.”
McCarthy, a paralegal and real estate salesperson, realized her dream, to offer a meal whether you could pay or not, in 2016. Her small office is on North Ocean Avenue, but the meals mostly emanate from the Jayne-Lattin VFW Post 2913 on Edwards Avenue.
When McCarthy first pitched her idea—pay what you can for high-quality, nutritious meals in a socially engaging environment—she’d get, “Whaaaat?!”
Now, “people’s minds are changing. They get our concept,” she said. “And now we’re doing emergency relief, food drives, deliveries, a new program, Buy One Soup, Give One Soup, where we give out soup.” That would be plant-based soups, with vegetables compliments of Heartbeet Farms, $10 a quart. You buy one, and one is given to a neighbor in need.
There’s also living wages for staff and job training skills guidance.
But back to the Thanksgiving feast.
Scarlatos is planning on serving 150 to 200 people. He has a staff of 55 to help.
“We’re getting a lot of support from the local restaurants,” said Scarlatos of Patchogue’s largesse. “The chamber is helping out as well.”
Sang Lee Farms has offered to donate produce, he added.
McCarthy’s altruism came from an awareness that there were more and more homeless and people needing a meal than ever. She grew up in Patchogue. And she knows what it is to need help.
“Growing up, we didn’t have much,” she said. “My father had two jobs and when he got sick, he couldn’t work. Back then it was kind of embarrassing asking for help. So I understand when you don’t have enough. I just want to make it better for people with no judgement involved and for them to have a nice meal. Then, when you’re on your feet, you pay it forward. And it’s just another option to have a healthy dinner and not need to worry about it.”
As for the two men, du Chausse hails from Trinidad, and recalled when he was 7 or 8, his parents gave out food twice a year to a local orphanage, taking him along. “My mom made a tremendous amount of food and we’d go early on Sunday mornings, emphasizing that ‘this is what you do.’ I’m thankful they structured that in for me,” he said.
Scarlatos shared this story about du Chausse: “He actually came down here early and made egg sandwiches for the homeless during COVID .”
“It gave me a sense of purpose to do that, because it was a ghost town,” du Chausse recalled of the initial lockdown closings.
That prompted a reciprocal action. “We had a break-in and one of the homeless notified us,” du Chausse said.
“So they keep an eye on us,” Scarlatos added.
Scarlatos, who’s owned Toast in Patchogue for six years (he also owns one in Port Jefferson and also now in Bay Shore), said he’s always made the main thrust of his company about people and community.
“I traveled the U.S. for nine years and found coffeehouses to be the heartbeat of the country,” he said. “There’s also art and music here and we try to make people feel good.”
As for McCarthy, she’s hoping to get a storefront one day to widen her mission.
Bet she gets one.