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Snapshot NY: Long Island Couple Hosts Special Food Market, Social Gatherings For Veterans In Need

CEDARHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Heroes emerged from all walks of life to help front-line workers and people who are most at risk during the pandemic.

One Long Island veteran found a way to help others like himself. He's the focus of this week's Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.

Early in the morning in the Village of Cedarhurst, Syd and Diane Mandelbaum gather food from the local Trader Joe's.

Three times a week, they turn their driveway into a special market for veterans.

"We started out with maybe a half dozen families, it went up to 20-30 families that come here," said Syd Mandelbaum. "They take what they need and know that it'll be here again a day or two later."

It started as a safe place to shop, but soon it became much more.

"I don't think it ever was just about the food. It was about getting people together in a safe place," Mandelbaum said. "Feeding their stomachs, their souls and their brains."

Social interaction lifts the spirits. Exchanging stories also exercises their memory.

"Syd and his wife are two of the nicest people that I've ever met in my life. He does so much for everybody. Look at all this," said Dominic Crici, 89. "As I got older, my money disappeared a little bit. This kind of food helps."

In the three hours Overmyer was there, veterans of all ages shared their stories.

Fred Zeilberger, 91, is a Korean War veteran and a Holocaust survivor. He came to America in 1946 after spending three-and-a-half years at five concentration camps in Latvia and Poland.

Once a week, he gets some food and socializes.

One surprise guest was famous comedian Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling. Within minutes, he'd set up a makeshift USO tour in the driveway.  Martling performed a 30-minute set.

Mandelbaum is the kind of guy who makes fast and lasting friendships. He founded the anti-poverty think tank Rock and Wrap It Up! They've expanded to 500 cities, helping thousands with food insecurity.

When the pandemic hit, Mandelbaum was perfectly positioned to offer more than just a one-time gesture of kindness.

"It's not like one action is going to be a solution," he said. "We would love to see other American Legion posts throughout the country do, because I'm sure that they have the same at-risk population that we're dealing with here in New York."

"What do you hope these veterans get out of coming here?" Overmyer asked.

"Peace of mind," Mandelbaum said.

"Some of these guys a little older than me, some younger. We're friends, and that's important," Crici said.

"We also want them to come out and say, 'God I had a great day today. I saw my friends today!'" Mandelbaum said. "It's worth everything."

Click here if you would like to help Rock and Wrap It Up!

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