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Vito serves it up for seniors • Brooklyn Paper

Vito serves it up for seniors

Money Honey #2: Christiana Fisher is Lopez’s campaign treasurer as well as the executive director of the nonprofit he founded — which pays her $659,000 per year. Here she is with Mayor Bloomberg and Lopez in 2008.
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

Seniors living in Bushwick have something to look forward to during the holidays — a Thanksgiving meal with Assemblyman Vito Lopez and all the trimmings.

For nearly 40 years, workers from the Bushwick-based nonprofit have prepared turkey with mashed potatoes and pie on Thanksgiving for 800 seniors at its main center on Stanhope Street in Bushwick. Thousands more get meals delivered to them.

The holiday tradition began when Lopez, who founded the nonprofit in 1973, hosted a dinner at a senior center on Thanksgiving Day for 40 seniors.

The organization itself has had a rocky year this year — two federal investigations are probing the nonprofit’s finances and its board of directors oversight failures and its contracts remain under state review — but the senior meal program continues.

This year, starting at 5 am on Thursday, 2,500 meals will be delivered on 75 routes throughout Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and southern Queens with the help of 250 volunteers and Ridgewood Bushwick workers.

In addition, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center is preparing to host a holiday lunch featuring turkey with gravy, milk, fruit, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dressing, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, pumpkin pie and a dinner roll.

“The turkeys we serve are fresh,” said Christiana Fisher, Ridgewood Bushwick’s executive director in a statement sent to the press. “Our seniors are traditionalists. It’s drumsticks, wings, the whole bird, served family–style, with plenty of gravy and sides.”

Another group of several dozen cooks overseen by center director Jeannie Laino have been roasting the turkey and preparing the vegetables and deserts, paid for by Ridgewood Bushwick, nearly nonstop for the past two weeks

But seniors who come to the center in person on Thursday may have their meal served to them by Borough President Markowitz, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg), state Sen. Marty Dilan (D–Williamsburg), or one-time Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. — all of whom are expected to attend the event along with Lopez himself.

“The Assemblyman will be there,” said Tom Mulligan, a spokesman for Ridgewood Bushwick. “I don’t think he’s ever missed.”

Levin, who has attended the annual celebration for the past seven years, called the meal delivery program “absolutely essential” for ensuring that seniors enjoy a hot meal on Thanksgiving every year.

“My family knows at this point to expect me [at home] a little later in the day, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to give back and show my thanks to the seniors of North Brooklyn,” said Levin.

Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center [319 Stanhope St. at Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick, (718) 366-3800], Nov. 25, 6 am-1 pm.

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