The Fishmans sponsor 34th Thanksgiving Turkey Drive

Deena Roth (l), Joel Fishman’s daughter and Mary Zagajeski (r), president & CEO of ArchCare at Home, helped distribute the turkeys.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

An annual drive to feed the hungry of the southern Bronx continued at a new location this year.

The 34th Annual Community Turkey Giveaway at ArchCare at Home, formerly known as Dominican Sisters Family Health Service, took place again this year on Monday, November 20 with the distribution of 2,000 turkeys.

The annual giveaway, sponsored by landlord and community activist Joel Fishman and his family, took place for the first year at the organization’s new headquarters at St. Vincent De Paul Nursing Home in Longwood, said Mary Zagajeski, president of ArchCare at Home.

In previous years, it took place at the former headquarters of the Dominican Sisters Family Health Service in Mott Haven.

Zagajeski said that the move was caused by the integration of the organization as one of members of ArchCare, the continuing care community for the Archdiocese of New York.

The turkeys were distributed on a first come, first serve basis because ArchCare at Home wants to involve the community, yet some were set aside for people in the organization’s programs, said Zagajeski.

“It is really the essence in our mission,” said Zagajeski of the distribution. “It is a large symbol of what we do everyday as we hopefully impact lives positively.”

Fishman was in California and unable to make it to the giveaway this year, but his children Dena Roth and Marc Fishman, and his grandchildren Matthew and Alex Roth took part and helped distribute the birds to those in need.

Joel Fishman said he coordinates the effort by combining donations he receives from friends to his own funds to purchase a truck load of turkeys.

He said that his fondness for the Dominican Sisters is one of the reasons for his continuing support.

Fishman said he used to rehabilitate apartment buildings in the borough and he observed the work of the sisters first hand one evening when he was visiting one of his properties.

He said he recalled an incident where the sisters visited an elderly woman in her apartment at 10 p.m.

She had been lying in waste and unable to move. They cleaned her up, fed her and didn’t accept any payment, he said

Fishman had held a turkey giveaway the prior year near his properties, but after witnessing this selfless act personally, he has teamed up with the Dominican Sisters to distribute turkeys at Thanksgiving ever since.

“We started with 50 turkeys and we have grown to as many as 4,000 turkeys,” said Fishman.

Fishman explained that he has to arrange to purchase the turkeys up to two years in advance and buys them by the tonnage, so he doesn’t know in advance exactly how many birds will be available.

This year Fishman said he purchased 20 tons.

The purpose is not only necessary for the recipients just to have turkey dinner, but to have the kind of experiences of hope and inspiration that he personally witnessed when visiting some of the families who have received the birds in previous years.

“We know that this is marginalized community, said Zagajeski. “These are people in need and hopefully this does impact their Thanksgiving positively.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Eva Santana came to get a free turkey for Thanksgiving.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

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