BY JOSEPH KOHUT, STAFF WRITER
A community Thanksgiving dinner program entered its fourth decade of service as a handful people once again prepared to feed thousands.
On Thursday, Sister Ann Walsh, I.H.M., the executive director of the Friends of the Poor, stood at the front of a room in the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple and dedicated this year’s Thanksgiving Community Program to the memory of Sister Adrian Barrett, I.H.M., the diminutive nun whose death last year failed to temper her influence in the charities she championed in life.
Calling to mind Sister Adrian, Sister Walsh began the annual appeal for donations with some humor.
“Lots of seats up front,” Sister Walsh said. “Just like church.”
That sent a laugh through the wood-paneled room. Then she got down to business.
The group is looking for volunteers and donors for the 40th annual Thanksgiving Community Program. The program begins Nov. 21 at 12:10 p.m. with an interfaith prayer service at St. Peter’s Cathedral on Wyoming Avenue and continues Nov. 22 with a Thanksgiving dinner at 6 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.) at the cultural center. It concludes Nov. 23 with the Family-to-Family basket drive, now in its 30th year, beginning at 9 a.m. at the cultural center.
Specifically, they need volunteers to serve as chefs, servers, table setters and cleanup workers.
The Family-to-Family basket giveaway, which last year distributed 3,000 baskets full of turkey and Thanksgiving staples, fed an estimated 15,000 people. This year, Linda Robseson and her son Ryan plan to give out more. A donation of $25 covers the cost of one basket. They have ordered more than $85,000 in food.
“Which is why your donations are so important,” Mr. Robeson said.
The need for the Thanksgiving program continues to grow each year, Sister Walsh said. During the news conference, she drew statistics from the Institute for Policy & Economic Development’s 2016 Living Wage Report that states the median household income for Lackawanna County is about $45,300, which is nearly 15 percent below the state median. The Luzerne County median household income is 17 percent below the state level.
“Knowing what we do know about our neighbors in need, and knowing how blessed we are, we naturally want to reach out to our hungry brothers and sisters with compassion and love,” Sister Walsh said. “And so we come together as a community of love and hope, one that cares, a community motivated by gratitude.”
How to donate:
Donations to the basket drive can be sent to Family to Family Program, PO Box 13, Scranton, PA 18501. The website is www.familytofamilythanksgiving.org.
Donations to the dinner can be sent to Thanksgiving Community Dinner, Friends of the Poor, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton PA, 18509.
Volunteers are needed that Tuesday at the Scranton Cultural Center.
The dinner schedule:
9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Potato peeling (bring your own peeler).
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Table set up and
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Carvers.
4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Servers and helpers.
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cleanup workers.
The schedule for the basket giveaway:
6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Workers to unload trucks.
8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Basket packers and distributors.
The Friends of the Poor office can be reached at 570-348-4429.