It took just one person’s motivation for helping others to grow the Middle Island-based nonprofit organization Branches Long Island.
The seed was planted when founder Samantha Morales, a veterinary technician and mother of four, began speaking with pet owners and other moms who told her they were having trouble paying for their families’ food.
“I found myself helping a lot in the community on local moms’ groups or through Facebook, and would have people leave milk or eggs on my porch,” Morales says. “One day I said to my husband, ‘I’m going to start a nonprofit.’”
Branches officially sprouted from Morales’s home in Coram, where she would accept donations of food and toiletries, hand out donations to those in need, and also have volunteers pick up items to deliver to families and individuals.
Since then, it’s become a tree of giving in the community: Morales moved the operation out of her home and into the organization’s own food pantry in Middle Island in May 2020, and a local community center is slated to open in April.
Branches runs its food pantry like a family-friendly minimart, Morales says. Those in need are given “blessing boxes” that they are able to fill with whatever items they choose. In addition to food, volunteers try to maintain a steady supply of diapers, wipes, pet food, baby formula, and other necessities people may need. Branches donates about 50 boxes per day, and volunteers also deliver all across Long Island.
Morales explains that she wants Branches to offer a positive experience that is different from a typical food line, especially for younger children who may feel embarrassed to be there with their parents.
“We really try to make it very personable,” she says. “The people who come are not just another number or body on the line, we treat them like they’re our friends or family we’re helping.”
Morales also says she and volunteers help visitors “get to the root of the problem” by recommending services that could further benefit them and alleviate their need for assistance. The new Middle Island community center will help Branches expand those services.
For more information about Branches Long Island, visit brancheslongisland.com