Long Island woman and her army of volunteers serve home-cooked meals to hungry veterans

STONY BROOK, New York -- As soon as you walk into Rena Sylvester's home, you can see boxes upon boxes filled with meals destined for the homes of Long Island veterans.

Coming from a military family, Sylvester has always given back to veterans, but during the pandemic, she was alarmed to learn more of them were struggling to find a square meal.

Many of these veterans are widows or widowers and suffer from PTSD, making it difficult for them to cook for themselves.

Sylvester decided she'd do something about this, founding "Cooking for Long Island Veterans", an organization of volunteers striving to feed every hungry veteran on Long Island.

She runs this army of helpers out of her house in Stony Brook, with volunteers either cooking meals there or delivering them to the veterans.

"When you are going through a hard time the best thing to do is to go out and serve others," said Sylvester. "I could not be happier that this is up and running. I'm so grateful for the volunteers that are helping me, and the veterans that trust me to do this for them."

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Sylvester's organization delivers three-course meals (and sometimes more) almost every day to the veterans free of charge.

In addition to meals that are made in-house, Long Island restaurants and grocery stores donate food and ingredients as well.

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"These people don't necessarily have issues acquiring food, but don't get homemade things very often," said Elizabeth Martin, a volunteer. "It really speaks to my soul, I just love doing it."

Sylvester is making Cooking for Long Island Veterans not just a collaborative organization, she's seeking to establish it as a nonprofit.

She's hoping more kind-hearted people will come forward to help those who have sacrificed so much for their country.

"I feel very grateful to not only be helping the veterans but to have met some lovely selfless giving people," Sylvester said.

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