PLAINS TWP. -- Mashed potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie and, of course, turkey: all the makings of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, one that families are currently gearing up for, but will everyone in the area be able to partake in such a feast on the holiday?
Not necessarily, and that's why the Commission on Economic Opportunity has held a Thanksgiving food distribution for the past 33 years, giving area residents who otherwise might not be able to afford a Thanksgiving meal the opportunity to have one.
It's so important that families have a chance at a traditional Thanksgiving, Maura Mondrovosky, CEO volunteer coordinator, said. Sometimes you take it for granted that you're going to get something like this. As I was helping register families this year, I spoke to a person who called in and said they couldn't get here last year to pick up a meal, so they ate hot dogs for Thanksgiving dinner.
Each year on the two weekends before Thanksgiving, CEO, with the help of nearly 1,000 volunteers and donations from area businesses, packs up and distributes bags filled with the makings of a Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, canned vegetables and fruit, and even napkins, paper plates and drinks, among other items.
Early Sunday morning the parking lot was packed and the line wrapped around the building, the Plains Township pick-up site abuzz with volunteers swarming in and out of towers of canned foods and bunches of pre-packaged bags. The high volume of activity was no surprise to Weinberg Food Bank Director Rich Kutz, who has been involved with the distribution for 21 years, starting out as a volunteer.
We have certainly seen the need for this grow over the years, he said. I believe when this first began they served 500 families. Last year we did over 7,000 families.
As the number of families in need grew, so did the number of volunteers necessary to pull off the event.
We have close to 1,000 people this year, from helping to register the families to packing up the bags and being here today, Mondrovosky said.
Seeing the number of young people that come to help us is incredible, Kutz said. The little ones that come to volunteer, you give them a task and they have so much fun with it; for them, it's not work. They're all so full of energy.
You've got to give credit to the parents because they want their kids to see what it is to volunteer. So many parents will say, ‘I want my children to come in and see that not everybody has it as good as they do.'
Joseph DeMace of Dupont has volunteered with the distribution for the past two years with his family, and he plans on continuing to help out in any way he can. The 14-year-old is no stranger to volunteering, as he also helps out at the Pittston Memorial Library weekly. For the distribution, he was manning the circulation of carts to be filled with a bagged meal.
It's been pretty busy, he said as he pushed the metal carriages through a line, taking from one volunteer and giving to the next. I like this. I really like helping out the community, and helping CEO, because they've done so much for us, too.