BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Alphonse Bifulco said he still can’t believe his New Leaf Project has grown in the way that it has. Four years ago he helped one family have a Thanksgiving dinner. He got them a turkey and other canned goods. Now he’s helping dozens of families and wishes he could do more.
“I called my daughter and was like ‘you know I’m really scared because it’s 70 families,'” said Bifulco with tears coming to his eyes. “It just chokes me up.”
Friday morning he loaded his van with 100 turkeys donated from the Save-A-Lot on Roosevelt Road. He thanked them for the generosity and then drove to a nearby church warehouse where he stores the rest of the food.
“It’s about helping the people, plain and simple, making sure somebody got a meal,” said Bifulco during an interview at the warehouse. “You got to have a meal for Thanksgiving.”
Bifulco said Saturday the turkeys and other foods — including canned yams, packaged dinner rolls and boxed macaroni and cheese — will all be put into dozens of boxes and given away to designated families. Those families were given to him, and vetted, through the Santa’s Helper organization.
“I always have cereal and snacks for kids,” said Bifulco with a thick New York accent. “They’re the most important. They’re our future.”
Bifulco said he never imagined what hes’ doing now to be apart of his future. He grew up stealing and dealing drugs on the streets of New York City. He spent much of his adult life in and out of jail.
“I used to be thankful for the cornish hen they use to give us in jail,” said Bifulco. “I did plenty of Thanksgivings locked up away from my family.”
However for the holidays, he always had a meal he said. His grandmother had an ‘open door policy’ in her home. He knew wherever he was in the city at 6 p.m. his grandmother was always serving dinner. He said it's that same spirit that sticks with him today to always help others.
“He’s helped me with a lot, through Christmas and Thanksgiving,” said friend Mariah Leins through tears. “I didn’t have anything.”
Leins said she was living in a hotel with her three kids when he gave her an Easter basket one year. He’s since given her other meals and she now in turn helps him with the New Leaf Project.
“The Thanksgiving meal is good but after that they might not have nothing to eat,” said Bifulco. “So if you can help somebody help somebody.”
If you’d like to contribute to Bifulco's New Leaf Project you can contact him at 269-317-9194 and at his GoFundMe page.