In 1986, while driving to a family Thanksgiving dinner, Jim and Mary Lou Burne noticed a mother and three small children walking slowly through town. She did not seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere. The Burnes wondered why that family wasn’t at home enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. Later, they contacted Sister Adrian Barrett, IHM, Director of the Friends of The Poor and learned this woman and many other families did not have the means to provide such a dinner.
The Burnes, along with their four young children, then discussed the need and decided to ask a food broker the cost of providing a complete dinner with all the trimmings. They then asked 50 of their friends to donate $25 to feed one family and then to ask one of their friends to do the same. As a result, that year 150 families donated, forming three links in their family chain. Thus the program name, Family to Family.
The food was bought at cost and delivered to the Scranton Cultural Center the day before Thanksgiving at 6am. A plea was put out through the media for volunteers to help unload, stack, pack and distribute the food baskets. Sixty teens and adults arrived that first morning, and by 5pm, 640 baskets were given to needy families.
In 2015, the Burne family has gave the reins of the program over to the Robeson clan. For the past 10 years, Linda Robeson and her son Ryan have been volunteering with Family to Family. Now, along with Ryan’s wife Mary-Christine, they will continue the tradition begun by the Burnes so that the program may continue to help those in need. “In the simplest sense this cause is important to us because we would never want to see anybody go hungry, especially at Thanksgiving, which is a holiday all about family and food,” Linda Robeson recently said. “Our real hope is that poverty will decrease and the number of families we serve goes down. However, as long as there is a need, we hope to be able to honor and maintain this wonderful tradition of Family to Family that was started by the Burne Family. To serve every family to the best of our ability and to put a smile on their faces, to provide the opportunity for everyone to enjoy a beautiful holiday meal with their families and loved ones.”
2019 will be the 33rd year for Family to Family with an anticipated distribution of 3,000 baskets which will feed over 15,000 people, more than half of whom are young children. Since 1986, over 100,000 families have received baskets–a total of over 340,000 people fed.