By Emine Fornelius

While reconnecting with friends and family over food are the actions we best associate with Thanksgiving, let’s not forget about what the second-to-last Thursday of every November is really about: Giving thanks to the people, opportunities, and experiences that have brought us to where we are today. Being thankful is only the first step, of course.  The next step is to ask how you might spread your thanks, and give back to those less fortunate.

After an early “Thanksgiving” meal at our New York office last week, we donated all of our leftovers and other supplies & food to those whose lives were uprooted by Hurricane Sandy. Here’s Emine Fornelius, our head of people & culture, reflecting on her weekend of giving and thanks.

I took a car on Friday night and loaded up our extra trays of untouched food and all the donations everyone brought in for the last two weeks.

All the side dishes and the donated supplies went to Camp Bulldog a group started initially by one woman who was determined to help the local communities for the devastated south parts of Lindenhurst and neighboring towns. A high school friend, Ernst Mutchnik, told me about the great work being done by Camp Bulldog and the many individuals and other organizations that are contributing their efforts to help rebuild communities affected by Sandy. One of these groups is Adopt A House, which connects volunteer families to families in need.On Saturday Camp Bull Dog fed 2000+ meals to people and families that have little or no access to hot meals. All supplies were organized by type so these families could select the items they needed most. Extra trays of food and supplies were driven by volunteers to similar but smaller sites in other local towns.



People were so appreciative. I brought my 4 year olds with me and it was truly heartwarming to see them connect with other kids who lost so much themselves. There were plenty of smiles, laughs and even some dancing that helped these children and their families forget for a couple hours that their houses were destroyed.

We even delivered a wrapped hot meal to an 81 year old who is living in one room of a six room house because it’s the only one inhabitable right now. She was so excited that she was going to take her first shower that evening after 14 days without! She had just gotten hot water back on Friday and there was a volunteer crew there Saturday fixing her heat.

On Sunday, I brought the rest of the food to a woman in Amity Harbor who despite having suffered herself from Sandy and the recent loss of her mom, has taken to cooking and heating donated food to feed as many people as possible in her neighborhood.

The last picture is of a town park and play area. It’s now serving as a dump. They needed to get the remains of the houses (appliances, furniture, clothes, toys, you name it) out of the streets so people could actually get around again. Sobering to realize that thousands of homes were destroyed and families are displaced or trying to live among the ruins and even the mold.

Yet another reminder that we should all be extremely thankful during this holiday and continue to do our best to help others. Even donating a little bit of our time or supplies goes a long way to lift people’s spirits and helps them move on with their lives. 

I’m also hearing a lot of stories about children who are having a hard time understanding why all their toys had to be thrown out (destroyed by water or mold). My boys have already decided that they are going to fill big bags with their toys to give these kids, “just like Santa.”

Be thankful for friends, family, community.  


Emine Fornelius is the head of people & culture at Wolff Olins New York.