‘A one-stop shop’: Harlem event provides Christmas meals, pandemic help for those in need

Local News

HARLEM, Manhattan — Hundreds of families around Harlem received a warm meal on Christmas thanks to the efforts of one of the leading civil rights organizations in the country.

The National Action Network’s annual meal distribution event brought in hundreds of people, including Lynora Ashford, who braved the wet weather and a long line for some holiday cheer.

“I didn’t have any food stamps,” Ashford told PIX11 News on Saturday. “It’s been a rough year. That’s why I come here to try to make my life better.”

Another attendee, Stuart Stephenson, said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the fear of not being able to put food on the table even worse.

“It’s a blessing because it’s been rough since COVID. A lot of people lost their jobs and it’s been rough on a lot of people,” Stephenson said.

NAN founder Rev. Al Sharpton echoed Stephenson’s sentiments.

“During the pandemic people are losing jobs, suffering. A lot of places that used to give food are closed because of COVID, so this means a lot to people that really need it. Nobody stands in line in rain that doesn’t need it,” said Sharpton.

Families filled their tables with nourishing Christmas feasts. Mayor-elect Eric Adams, Sharpton, and members of the National Action Network wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s so important and, believe it or not, when we feed others we feed ourselves because this is our way of showing humility and saying how blessed we are and passing our blessing on,” said Adams.

NAN’s annual holiday event was also an opportunity to spread awareness about getting a COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

Those benefiting from the food drive could also walk away with a free COVID-19 test — another way to feel fulfilled and healthy this Christmas.

“You come here, get your meal and also get your mask and you get your COVID test and your vaccination: a one-stop shop,” Adams said.

Ashford said she hopes the event is able to continue next year.

“Merry Christmas to everybody and I just thank them for the giving they’ve given us and I hope to keep it happening every year.”

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