Gaton Foundation gives back to families in need
Give & Go Delivery Project supplies food, necessities
By Jessica Meditz
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.
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.