Dec. 7, 2018 By Meghan Sackman
A local women’s empowerment group is collecting goods to give to the homeless this season in its weeks-long “Festival of Giving.”
Ladies First Astoria (LFA), founded by area residents and entrepreneurs Rene Heitmann and Nicole Panettieri, kicked off their drive after Thanksgiving, and plan on distributing collected food, supplies and other goods to homeless New Yorkers later this month.
The group has organized its inaugural festival into three parts—collection, assembly and distribution. Next week marks the third for the collection component, with the group opting to focus on distinct goods categories in each round.
Three drop-off points, meanwhile, have been set up outside businesses like Astoria Bier & Cheese and Comfortland on Broadway, Ditmars Boulevard and 30th Avenue.
The group has already collected cold weather gear in the first week of the program, and for this week ending on Dec. 9, the organization is asking for toiletries.
The final stretch, from Dec. 10-14, will see a food collection drive.
The last day of the drive also marks the first for the “assembly party.” The group, along with volunteers, will package the collected goods from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Ditty, located on Ditmars Blvd.
LFA founders hope to receive enough goods to include one or two items from each supply group, plus a bagged lunch, in the care packages.
On Dec. 15—the final day of the giving fest—members and volunteers will return to The Ditty at around 10 a.m. to pick up the care packages for distribution.
The group said it will focus on shelter locations that have population overflow, such as in Jamaica, and will generally follow stops along the E line in Manhattan to distribute the packages. Packages, however, will be distributed to anyone they see in need.
Heitmann, who owns Single Girl Cookies, and Panettieri, owner of Brass Owl in Astoria, started the LFA group this past July when they realized no group like it existed in their area.
“We needed to create a safe space where women can come together in a professional and personal way that allows us to thrive and lift each other up,” said Heitmann. “The group has no dues to join to make sure we are completely inclusive to all women.”
Those interested in participating in the drive or in joining the LFA can contact the group at [email protected].
A list of suggested goods to donate is available on the group’s Instagram.