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Community Thanksgiving giveaway helpful, gratifying

More than 180 volunteers helped pull off the annual Thanksgiving community meal distribution through All Saints Parish this year. EDDIE TRIZZINO/BUTLER EAGLE

They cleaned the turkeys Monday, they prepared the rest of the food Tuesday and they started cooking Wednesday.

By Thursday, the volunteer staff of about 180 people were tired, but their morale remained high because the product of their work was supplying Thanksgiving food to almost 1,200 people.

“That’s why we all come back, because it is satisfying,” said Kelly Zaccari, of Butler, a volunteer for the community meals. “It’s really a nice tradition.”

All Saints Parish has been preparing and distributing Thanksgiving community meals for more than 30 years, several longtime volunteers for the program said Thursday. Zaccari estimated that almost 180 people volunteered over the week to prepare and give out the meal boxes, which each consisted of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, a dinner roll, cranberry sauce and a slice of pumpkin pie.

In addition to preparing the boxes, volunteers also helped give them to people from the St. Peter Catholic Church Hall and deliver them throughout Butler County and beyond.

Mason Menell, left, and Kelly Zaccari are both longtime volunteers for the All Saints Parish Thanksgiving community meal distributions, which gave out almost 1,200 meal packs to families across Butler County this year. EDDIE TRIZZINO/BUTLER EAGLE

“They start collecting in August through church donations,” Zaccari said. “All the churches and community members donate as well; it’s really a group effort.”

The distribution room operated like a well-oiled machine from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Thursday, with people who placed their orders ahead of time collecting bags filled with their number of requested boxes to volunteers shuffling in and out to bring boxes to people’s vehicles.

One of the coordinators of the distribution, who asked to be identified only as Sue, said the All Saints Parish churches started hosting Thanksgiving meals in their social halls so even people without vehicles could make it out. Although the parish has done take out and delivery service only since 2020, Sue said the mission is still to remove barriers to the food for people in need.

“That’s what it’s about, the ministry reaching out to the community,” Sue said. “It’s all about the community.”

The outreach isn’t solely provided by the ministry, Sue said, because donations flow into the parish from community members in the lead up to the holiday and on the day of.

“Even though it’s free for them, people donate money today,” said Pete Duffy, of Butler, a volunteer for the distribution who has been helping out for the past nine years.

The people receiving the food aren’t the only ones giving thanks on Thanksgiving each year. The volunteers Thursday each said they enjoy returning to the church to help each year.

“It’s nice because I don’t have to cook at home,” longtime volunteer Milann Karnes, of Butler, said with a laugh. “I just make green bean casserole.”

The leftover food would be given to emergency response departments, according to Zaccari, so none of it will go to waste. Sue also said the money donated to the parish on Thanksgiving either goes into other community food programs or into the Thanksgiving fund for the next year.

Mason Menell is another longtime volunteer for the Thanksgiving distribution, and said the need keeps himself and likely many other volunteers coming back year after year. He said the record number of people served was 1,701, and that number has not wavered much in the ensuing years.

“It’s a 30-plus year tradition because the community needs it,” said Menell, himself in his 17th year volunteering. “It’s the need, that’s why we do it.”

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