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Supermarket makes giving to charity a Big Deal

Big Deal Supermarket and the American Civics Institute have teamed up to collect over $30,000 worth of food for the needy over the past three years, and that number continues to grow.

The supermarket, located at 1018 Morris Park Avenue, has a bin at the front of the store near the registers where shoppers can drop off canned goods, pastas, baby formula, and other foods. The American Civics Institute, which was founded by Morris Park leaders Sal Conforto and Al D’Angelo to provide tutoring for community youth and to feed the poor by filling local food pantries, sponsors regular pick-ups at the market.

On Thursday, September 23, American Civic’s volunteers joined Big Deal owner Miguel Garcia and his staff as they loaded 25 boxes that weighed about 30 pounds a piece onto a truck that brought it to St. Lucy’s Church food pantry.

Garcia said that he is impressed by the generosity of the community, especially given the overall economic malaise gripping the country.

“It has been a bit over three years that we have had the bin in front now, and people drop some of the things they buy into it or they bring in extra items from home,” Garcia said. “We are now finding the bin full twice a week, and it is amazing that with the economy the way it is we are still receiving a large amount of donations. We have a very good community here in Morris Park.”

Garcia said the donations have made him proud to be from Morris Park. The staff at Big Deal takes the contents of each bin, which is a 55-gallon car wash drum, and stores them in banana boxes before volunteers from the American Civics Institute arrive to collect the food.

Sal Conforto said that The American Civic Institute has placed the bins in several supermarkets, and that they have always received a strong reception by customers. In addition, there is a collection box in the New York Sports Club. He was grateful to Garcia, who took a leap of faith in being the first to put the bin into a supermarket.

“Miguel’s store was our first spot, and he has been the most prodigious in collecting and storing the food,” Conforto said. “Whenever we need something, he is here for the community. From the start we have collected over $30,000 worth of food, and we estimate that this collection is worth at least $1,250.”

Garcia pointed out that many cans of expensive baby formula, costing about $19, were in the boxes collected and brought to St. Lucy’s. The car wash drums used to collect the food have a sticker on them, designed by Conforto during the 2008 presidential campaign, with the slogan: “Yes, we can feed poor American first.”

“I give to collections a few times a month,” said Big Deal customer George Alberty. “I believe in giving back.”

“We can’t be selfish,” he added.

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