A south Bronx man has been giving out free Thanksgiving dinners for more than four decades. Marty Rogers has lived in the Bronx all of his life. He’s well known in his community as the guy behind a 44 year tradition of providing free Thanksgiving meals to area residents. It all started in 1977 when Rogers and a group at his local church asked about opening up the church hall to serve Thanksgiving dinner to senior citizens. Later they expanded the gathering to include people experiencing homelessness.
Known in his community as "Mayor Marty" or "Saint Marty," Rogers has taken on lots of projects to help improve his neighborhood over the years, and he seems to get just as much out of his work as the people he helps. “They come in the door, they get welcomed, they get a name tag," Rogers says of the Thanksgiving event. "And I get to play maitre d'. 'How's the food?' 'Is everything okay with you guys?' And at the end, they come around with seconds of pies. I love to see people [say] 'I can't eat no more.'"
In addition to the Thanksgiving event, Rogers operates a year-round food delivery program where he and other volunteers get out in the community to meet people and deliver meals to those in need. Since the pandemic, he’s expanded that program to help even more people. "When the pandemic came, no one’s out on the street, it’s a ghost town," Rogers explains. "But out on the street are all people who are homeless. They're not homeless people. They're people who are homeless. They fell into this condition. We don't know why and how, but they're people first."