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Crowley, MidVille gardeners distribute vegetables to seniors

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Thoughts of bingo prizes went temporarily out the window Monday at the Middle Village Adult Center, replaced by thoughts of winning cantaloupes in a raffle.

Such was the mood there after members of the senior center saw the spread of produce provided through a free program organized by Middle Village gardener David Shapiro and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).

Shapiro said he got the idea after having a surplus of vegetables from his garden year after year.

“You end up being a pain in the neck to your neighbors, going around knocking on doors,” he said. “I came up with the idea, and her staff just took the ball and ran with it.”

About a dozen local gardeners contributed bucketloads of produce to what Crowley called simply Vegetables for Seniors, including tomatoes, green peppers, Italian frying peppers, eggplants, leeks, peaches, apples, cantaloupes, watermelons, bananas and various herbs.

Three local corporate sponsors — Key Food on 63rd Drive, Florist Hills on Woodhaven Boulevard and C-Town on Metropolitan Avenue — also contributed part of the haul.

“With the cost of everything going up today, it is so important to give back,” Crowley said.

What rapidly became clear to organizers at the Middle Village Adult Center was that they needed to parcel out individual bags of the fruits and vegetables. Shapiro began tossing out bags of thyme to a few of the roughly 40 seniors in attendance, prompting people to crowd the front of the room.

“It’s a great idea, but they must have a better system,” said Rego Park resident Anna Maria Mikelinich, 84. “It’s a great help for most of the people.”

Shapiro said he hoped to have the next Vegetables for Seniors donation in three weeks.

“The home growers are really taking a hit due to the weather,” he said, noting that this summer’s frequent rain has caused widespread tomato blight.

Crowley said she hopes to continue Vegetables for Seniors through the harvest season, usually through October or until the first frost. The next Vegetables for Seniors Day is scheduled for Sept. 14 and, in the meantime, they hope to recruit local gardeners from other areas throughout Queens.

For more information, contact Shapiro at 347-234-9519.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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