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Thanksgiving Spirit

Countywide effort serves up dinner for 1,500

November 26, 2020 News Extra

Volunteers Chris Baldacci and Mason Menell, both of Butler, de-bone turkeys at St. Michael parish on Center Avenue Wednesday working on some of the 80 turkeys cooked to provide 1,500 meals to those in need on Thanksgiving.
Volunteers Mary Graham, left, and Amanda Brendlinger prepare to make stuffing at St. Michael parish Wednesday.

The menu might not have included loaves and fishes, but Butler's Thanksgiving community meal on Thursday was bountiful nonetheless.

With modifications in place to limit COVID-19 exposure, the annual event included cooking 80 turkeys and serving about 1,500 meals this year.

“We knew that there were going to be modifications from the start,” said Sue Cadwallader, director of pastoral care for Butler Area Catholic Parishes and a dinner volunteer. “We're very happy that we can do this.”

For more than 25 years, the Thanksgiving community dinner has drawn volunteers from all faiths and walks of life.

Although it's typically hosted at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church along Franklin Street, Cadwallader said the event is a countywide effort. Volunteers come from as far away as Pittsburgh to serve anyone in need of a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day.

“We actually have a team that coordinates,” Cadwallader said. “It kind of unfolds itself.”

Pete Duffy of Meridian has been a community dinner volunteer for five years. He spent Wednesday morning at the St. Michael church along Center Avenue removing turkeys from roasters and turning drippings into 5-gallon buckets of gravy.

Duffy said he helps out with the Thanksgiving dinner for one reason.

“(It's) to give back to the community,” Duffy said. “That's the whole goal.”

Instead of inviting the community to participate in a sit-down meal in the St. Peter social hall this year, event volunteers made deliveries and offered take-out meals. Orders were being collected as late as midnight Wednesday, according to Cadwallader.

“Nobody should go hungry,” said Mason Menell, a Butler resident who's been part of the dinner for the past 15 years. “(We need) kids involved for the next generation, so we can keep this going until everyone is fed.”

Read more in Friday's Butler Eagle.