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It’s ‘back to normal’ for Thanksgiving community meal at St. Peter church

Volunteers serve food at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
Volunteer Debbie Ervin scoops mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church hall in Butler on Thursday, Nov. 23. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

For three days, dozens of volunteers prepared for the Thanksgiving feast at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church on Franklin Street.

Hundreds of guests were welcomed into the dining room on Thursday afternoon for the annual community meal.

Although the event was scheduled to start at noon on Thanksgiving Day, some made their way into the dining room and were served as early as 20 minutes before then.

“We’re prepared for 900 people today,” said volunteer Kelly Zaccari. “There's all kinds of people that come. Sometimes it’s just for fellowship. Sometimes it’s for need. They could be someone who just doesn't have anywhere else to go.”

One of those 900 was Lou Pocchiari. He and his family and friends came for a simple reason.

“The turkey didn't defrost in time,” Pocchiari said. “We knew the church was going to be sponsoring this, so we decided to come here, and we’re really enjoying it.”

The menu for the community meal consisted of traditional Thanksgiving fare — turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and rolls, plus some dessert.

Mason Menell was one of several volunteers who scrambled to prepare the community meal. This marks the 20th straight year he’s volunteered at this event.

“We probably have 30 or 40 volunteers here, but it takes a village,” Menell said. “Sixty turkeys, 20 gallons of gravy, 30 gallons of broth. We start about Tuesday at 4 o'clock, and there's always something going on with cleaning the turkeys, cooking them all day on Wednesday, and getting everything set up here.”

The annual St. Peter’s community dinner has returned to a traditional, sit-down event this year after three years of disrupted routine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, the church adapted to the times by offering drive-thru and to-go service.

“2020, we didn't do it at all,” Menell said. “’21 and ’22, we just did deliveries and to-gos. So people could still get their food as long as they could come here.”

According to volunteer Bill Nass, the vast majority of the food used for the community meal was donated over the past few weeks by parishioners at St. Peter and the other four churches within the All Saints Parish — St. Andrew, St. Paul, St. Conrad and St. Michael.

“Turkeys have been donated. A lot of the fixings have been donated. It’s just individual donations more than anything else,” said Nass, who is also a sales manager for industrial automation company Radwell International. “During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, there’ll be boxes in the back of the church. We're collecting stuffing, we're collecting potatoes, and then we collect it every week.”

Nass said the unused food will not go to waste.

“There'll be Meals on Wheels or somebody communicated with at the end of the day to come and pick it up,” Nass said. “But we've also delivered to the police. We've also delivered to the fire hall and many other professionals that are working today.”

Volunteers serve food at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
Volunteer Eric Nagy and his wife, Michele, dish out turkey at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church hall in Butler on Thursday, Nov. 23. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Volunteers serve food at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
Volunteer Milann Karnes puts whipped cream on pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church hall in Butler on Thursday, Nov. 23. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
People warm up at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
People warm up at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church hall in Butler on Thursday, Nov. 23. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Volunteer preps food at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
Volunteer PJ McGary preps mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving Community Meal at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church hall in Butler on Thursday, Nov. 23. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

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