This article was written by Laura Lane for the LI Herald. Nitika Moran and Lindsay Fox, parishioners of St. John's, Lattingtown, are the Herald's Persons of the Year for 2023. They founded Friends of St. John’s in 2017, providing opportunities for partnerships between volunteers and families in need.
Pictured: Nitika Moran, at left above, and Lindsay Fox founded Friends of St. John’s in 2017, providing opportunities for partnerships between volunteers and families in need. Moran and Fox are the Herald's Persons of the Year. COURTESY COURTNEY CALLAHAN.
It was a simple act of kindness, volunteering to serve dinner at the Glen Cove men’s shelter, that led Lindsay Fox and Nitika Moran to found Friends of St. John’s seven years ago. The Locust Valley women never imagined that the organization would grow to help so many people on the North Shore, or that an abundance of volunteers would join them in their efforts.
For their tireless commitment to helping those in need, the Herald is proud to name Fox and Moran its 2023 People of the Year.
Fox said it was the conversations she and Moran had with the men at the shelter that led to the creation of Friends of St. John’s, which is named for St. John’s of Lattingtown Episcopal Church.
“Nitika and I were serving dinner to the men through the Thistle and Spoon program at St. John’s,” Fox recalled, referring to the ministry that provides meals with the North Shore Sheltering Program, “and the men were talking to us about how they wanted to go on job interviews but couldn’t afford razors. Food stamps doesn’t cover personal hygiene or cleaning supplies.”
Fox and Moran, who have been friends for 11 years, decided to start an interfaith outreach group. There were so many mothers in the Locust Valley School District and the community who told the two women they wanted to get involved in volunteering but didn’t know how. Forming an interfaith group gave them all an avenue to volunteer.
Friends of St. John’s was founded in November of 2017. No money is collected; it simply organizes volunteers to help those in need living in Locust Valley, Glen Cove and Bayville.
One initiative, Soap for Hope, provides personal hygiene and cleaning supplies each November. The women describe it as an “add-on to the various Thanksgiving food drives.”
The donated supplies, which include toothpaste, soap and cleaning supplies, are given to 10 different groups for distribution, among them the Finley Middle School Food Pantry, the Grenville Baker Boys and Girls Club and the Interagency of Glen Cove’s Thanksgiving Food Drive.
Each year, roughly 100 boxes of supplies are also given to the Dr. Alberta Hersey Foundation, a charity in Glen Cove. “It really helps a lot,” Pandora Hersey, who runs the foundation, said. “Lindsey and Nitika are fantastic. People appreciate it so much.”
Holiday Meal Box program
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, and pantries were shuttered, Fox and Moran continued to collect items for Soap for Hope, but wanted to help provide food too. They joined Nosh, who deliver food, in 2020, to help the food insecure on the North Shore. But they wanted to do more.
They started the Holiday Meal Box program in November 2020 through Friends of St. John’s. The program connects volunteers with families in need, providing boxes filled with ingredients for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
“I saw this as a huge opportunity for families sitting at home to fill a void by rallying them to deliver food to the food insecure,” Fox said. “I banded together a group of moms, and we shopped and delivered the food.”
The program started small, with six families in need recommended by St. John’s. In 2021, principals in the Glen Cove and Locust Valley school districts gave the women the names of additional families. Each holiday, Friends is given the names of more families that need help. This year they provided 105 Christmas meals.
“It became like an adopt-a-family,” Fox explained. “We’d pair a volunteer family with a family in need. We tried to create a relationship with the volunteers and families so they’d be delivering to the same family during the holidays.”
The volunteers shop for, and pay for, the items they deliver, which include cooked hams, fresh vegetables, dinner rolls, pies and more. Fox leaves 75 empty boxes on her porch, which the volunteers pick up and fill with the food. The effort is usually a family affair, with children often decorating the boxes and attaching notes.
“It’s great so many families are doing this with their own children,” Moran said. “After Thanksgiving, one (mother) posted on Instagram of her shopping with her kids and how this has become their family’s favorite part of the holiday.”
Most volunteer families help more than one needy family. “Some do one family, other volunteers do five,” Fox said. “The average is two families per volunteer. Some families don’t have cellphones, or they move. The volunteers will find them. And some volunteer families help their needy families year-round.”
Moran, a native of Pittsburgh, moved to Locust Valley in 2004. She owns Nitika Moran LLC, which sells custom-made carpets by artisans in India to interior designers. The mother of three boys, ages 19, 17 and 13, Moran has impressed upon her family the importance of volunteering, involving them in her work at Friends of St. John’s.
“It’s a family event for us,” she said. “I love seeing my children having so much fun helping others.”
Patrick Moran, Nitika’s husband of 21 years, described his wife as selfless. “She puts a lot of things ahead of herself in life,” he said. “She’s a very warm person who I admire. I’m lucky to have such a strong person in my life.”
Moran, 49, helped Glen Cove resident Courtney Callahan establish Nosh, which will mark four years in operation in March. The nonprofit has thrived, and now feeds 700 local families per week either by delivery or walk-ins. Moran, a Nosh board member, has been integral in the organization’s growth.
And her volunteerism has grown over the years to include serving as a board member at the Glen Cove Boys and Girls Club.
“Nitika has been very supportive of our fundraising events,” Franco Trunzo, the club’s executive director, said. “She’s a wonderful asset to our board, because having a family of her own, she understands how important it is to have what the Boys and Girls Club offers. She has a big heart, is soft-spoken and is a lovely person wishing to help however she can.”
Moran said that helping others feels good, and is important. “Service to others is self-fulfilling to us as well,” she said. “It’s not just us giving to them. They give to us, too.”
And her admiration for Fox is boundless. “Lindsay is pure love,” Moran said. “She’s willing to help anyone.”
Fox, 44, an insurance broker who grew up outside Boston, moved to Locust Valley after her second son was born in 2011. It was her husband, Scott’s, idea to move to Locust Valley, because he was born and raised there.
“I love Locust Valley,” Lindsay said. “I love that it’s a small, tight sense of community. And I love the school district and St. John’s of Lattingtown. My mother-in-law, Vicki Fox, was always very involved in the church, so I got involved in the community-service aspect of the church too.”
The Foxes’ three sons, ages 13, 11 and 9, attend the Locust Valley School District, where their mother was the president of the parent council for two years. Now she is president of the district’s coordinated parent councils, overseeing all of its PTAs.
She and her sons shop for and deliver food to the food insecure, which they began doing for Nosh during the pandemic. When they made deliveries for the Holiday Meal Box program, they formed relationships with the families.
One year, when Fox delivered a box of food for Thanksgiving, she discovered that the mother had had a stroke and was struggling. Fox ordered furniture for the family, and supplied them with other things they needed.
“One year, a kid from a family I delivered to each year said Santa didn’t come last year,” she recounted. “I texted the mom and said I heard things were tight, and was there anything I could get her daughter? We delivered four items for her for Christmas.”
Growing up, Fox volunteered, cleaning senior citizens’ yards and homes. She said she always liked helping people.
“But it wasn’t until I saw the need in my kids’ school, kids struggling, that I felt a call to action,” she said.
Initially, her children didn’t understand why she was shopping for others, so she got them involved. They carried the boxes of food into the families’ apartments, and saw how much the donations meant to them, Fox said.
“They’d cry and hug us,” she recalled. “That’s when my children understood what this all means.”
Fox and Moran’s impact
Courtney Callahan, the director of children’s ministry and outreach at St. John’s, has known Fox and Moran for years. “Nitika and Lindsay are two of the best people I know,” she said. “They are the kindest, most empathetic people. It’s one thing to dream of helping others. It’s another thing to execute it.”
Scott Fox said his wife has always put others first. He’s had to remind her, he said, to do something for herself, too.
“This is all about togetherness,” she said. “For hundreds of years there was one mom on the block that cooked for others. I feel like this is the mom on your block. It’s in Nitika and Lindsay’s DNA to help like this. They exemplify kindness, and are an inspiration to other moms and dads.”