Gaton Foundation gives back to families in need

Give & Go Delivery Project supplies food, necessities

By Jessica Meditz

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The Gaton Foundation delivers fresh groceries to students and families in need.

Following her own personal humanitarian mission, Angela Gaton-Wiltshire dedicates much of her life to assisting those in need any way she can.

After a massive fire tore through various homes on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill during 2020, Gaton-Wiltshire, 61, promptly started The Gaton Foundation and the Give & Go Delivery Project with her daughter, Kristen Wiltshire.

An employee of Richmond Hill High School for over 25 years, Gaton-Wiltshire works directly with students as a bilingual teacher of speech and hearing, special educator, general educator, deaf educator and developmental education evaluator.

Hosted with the support of Richmond Hill High School, the Give & Go Delivery Project strives to provide hand-delivered groceries and other essentials to students and their families in need in a stigma-free environment.

Flyers are posted throughout the school with a QR code that leads to the sign-up sheet for the service, so students can privately send their information.

After the fire, she knew that many of the students and their families would be impacted, and felt that she had to step in to help.

“I know the other side of what can happen when children are displaced. Part of the problem is going to be getting food…because if you’ve been displaced to a family member or relative, but you’re an extra mouth to feed, it becomes a challenge,” Gaton-Wiltshire said.

“To lessen the burden…I said, ‘Let’s deliver groceries,’” she continued. “It’s been a labor of love completely, because I have to buy everything and there’s so many resources, donations, everything.”

Gaton-Wiltshire said that the entire first floor of her St. Albans home has been designated for The Gaton Foundation and its operations.

She added that she and her daughter try their best to sort all the goods appropriately, sanitize everything and pack all the groceries appropriately in bags, as presentation is of utmost importance to her.

“The presentation is good so they know that we want to give this to them, and we would give it to them in the same way we would want to receive it,” Gaton-Wiltshire said.

Being Caribbean-American, the women behind The Gaton Foundation strive to be culturally aware, as they can relate with immigrants and children of immigrants.

The groceries provided by The Gaton Foundation take into account Halal, Kosher and other dietary restrictions, and the sign-up form is available in multiple languages.

“We are thrilled and proud that the work of the foundation and its projects, Give & Go Grocery specifically, is being recognized in this way. For nearly three years, this project has been organized to serve students, and their families across Queens, with our sight fixed devotedly on the impact we can have beyond the borough,” Wiltshire said.

“I’m genuinely in awe of what my mother began, and I’m entirely honored to represent my family foundation.”

Utilizing the skills gained from her culinary arts and nutrition education, Wiltshire also makes herself available to the families if they are unsure how to prepare or make a dish out of a certain item or ingredient.

Deliveries for the Give & Go Delivery Project go out on the first Friday of every month, to every applicant’s door — rain or shine. Gaton-Wiltshire said since its inception in 2020, they have not missed a month.

The Gaton Foundation always accepts donations and new volunteers.

Members of The Gaton Foundation along with its volunteers from Richmond Hill High School and beyond execute these deliveries in the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Whitestone, Jamaica, Ozone Park, Glendale and communities in Brooklyn where students have been displaced.

“It’s completely anonymous. We call and tell them the ETA, we get there, put the delivery on their doorstep and move onto the next person,” she said. “It’s to eliminate the stigma and embarrassment.”

At the time of publication, nearly 140 families have requested grocery delivery services from The Gaton Foundation.

“People won’t accept the help knowing full well that they need it, because they don’t want anybody to know,” Gaton-Wiltshire said. “Especially because this is an adolescent population, there’s nothing worse than kids being bullied.”

Gaton-Wiltshire attributes much of her humanitarian spirit and awareness to her father, who passed his values down to her.

She shared that her father marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement and studied psychology and social work for his PhD — however, he knows how it feels to grow up poor and need help.

“I always remember him telling me the story about when he was going to school, when he had to walk miles and the soles of his shoes were separated and he had to use rubber bands to keep them together. But because his parents were poor, they couldn’t afford new shoes,” she said. “I can understand that because it’s my dad’s experience, so it’s not generations away.”

The Gaton Foundation seeks to expand beyond Queens in the future, and is always accepting donations and additional volunteers.

To donate or get involved with The Gaton Foundation, visit their website thegatonfoundation.org to contact them as well as their Instagram, @thegatonfoundation.

Vigil honors slain food deliveryman Zhiwen Yan

Last week, the Forest Hills community came together for a candlelight vigil in front of Great Wall Chinese Restaurant to honor Zhiwen Yan, a food delivery worker who was killed at the end of April.

Yan, who lived in Middle Village, was fatally shot on the night of April 30 while riding his scooter on his way to deliver food in Forest Hills.

He was 45 years old, and leaves behind a wife and three children.

Ethan Felder and Donghui Zang organized a candlelight vigil to honor the life and legacy of Zhiwen Yan.

“He was a kind and beautiful soul. And to think how he did everything right in life as an immigrant: he worked three jobs and he leaves three children behind. He epitomizes what we all strive for as Americans,” said Ethan Felder, a labor lawyer and candidate running for NYS Assembly District 28, who co-organized the vigil. “The fact that he had that all taken away two weeks ago… it really strikes at the heart of who we are. That is why we had to memorialize his life and what happened to him and his family, and to our community.”

Zhiwen Yan’s wife, Kunying Zhao, was comforted by the community during her time of grief, and spoke out about how she feels and what the city should be doing to help.

“New York City, you owe me a life. You owe me a husband. You owe an explanation to the Chinese community,” she said through a translator.

She emphasized that Yan and his coworkers had been threatened for months prior to his death, and said that police could have taken protective measures to prevent the worst from happening.

“He should have been able to watch his children growing up, but everything ended,” she continued. “We want New York City to give us an explanation.”

Kai Yang, manager of Great Wall, shared a powerful speech with attendees, demanding justice for his former employee.

Yan was a beloved member of the community, best known for his signature greeting, “Hello, my friend.”

Several residents took turns with the microphone to share their stories about him.

“I knew Mr. Yan for over 25 years. He was the best delivery guy you can ever ask for,” one resident, Ariel, said.
“If you ordered from Great Wall when he was alive, you got your food in 15 minutes or less — no matter how far you lived, or how much food you ordered,” he continued. “I’m so heartbroken.”

“This is a terrible loss to the entire community. He reached so many different people, and I think that just goes to show by how many people showed up to the vigil,” another resident, Michael, said.

“I have met many people over the past several days on my walk to Walgreens, saying they would see him on his scooter, always working,” he added. “He was the hardest working man I know in the neighborhood.”

Kai Yang, the manager of Great Wall who worked with Yan for more than 10 years, shared a powerful speech with attendees, demanding justice for his former employee.

“He was taking care of the neighborhood, delivering to the neighbors who needed food. And then without any notice, that guy came out and shot him. His blood is spilled at the crosswalk of the streets in this neighborhood,” Yang said through a translator.

“This is an insult to the city, and something we need to look into and take care of,” he continued. “My workers and I are still working in fear. We are in fear for our own lives and safety working here every day.”

He addressed the racism against Asian Americans that came out of the pandemic, which has affected the success of his business, and resulted in his workers being verbally assaulted with racial slurs.

Community members from all walks of life stood beside Yan’s wife to support her

“We deserve safety. We deserve peace so we can make our living and we can make this city somewhere worth living,” he said.
Donghui Zang, a candidate for District Leader of the 28th Assembly District, said that despite Yan’s death taking place nearly three weeks ago, his family has still not secured a place to bury him.

He said that he and the community are doing what they can to help them with this process, along with help from Uber Eats, where he also worked, and other Asian community leaders and elected officials.

“Saying ‘stop Asian hate’ is not enough. You need to prosecute and charge the criminals to the maximum extent of the law,” Zang said. “The penalty is too low so it doesn’t scare off the people who commit crimes: murder, robberies, and shootings in the subways. It’s still not enough, and we have to revise the law so people can feel safe and restore the peace.”

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