Thousands pack 1 million meals at Pittsburgh convention center | TribLIVE.com
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Thousands pack 1 million meals at Pittsburgh convention center

Tom Davidson
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Tracey Gilliard (left) and her son Damian Gilliard Jr., 8 (right), work with Erin Miller, 7, as they and thousands of other volunteers pack meals during the third annual Amen to Action event on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Thousands of volunteers pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen to Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Luca Maybee, 4, of Pittsburgh’s Observatory Hill, looks on as he kneels in a chair while thousands of volunteers work to pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen to Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Reagan Gross, 15 months, watches from the back of father Dave Gross of Richland Township as he and thousands of other volunteers work to pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen to Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Samuel Williams, 8, of McCandless, (middle) helps seal a bag as he and thousands of other volunteers work to pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen to Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Leon Sporrer, event coordinator for Meals of Hope, empties a bag of rice into a bin as he and thousands of other volunteers work to pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen to Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Lee Romagnoli, 6, of Kennedy Township, reacts as he and thousands of other volunteers work to pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen To Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Thousands of volunteers pack meals for less fortunate individuals and families in the Pittsburgh area during the third annual Amen to Action event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.

More than 4,000 people spent Black Friday morning packing meals in Downtown Pittsburgh instead of shopping among a crowd of strangers.

They sang, laughed and prayed together as they packed more than 1 million meals of apple cinnamon oatmeal and chicken rice soup during the third Amen to Action, a Pittsburgh-based event started by former Edgewood resident Reid Carpenter, who now lives in Naples, Fla.

The meals will be distributed to food banks across Southwest Pennsylvania.

Carpenter was inspired by the Rev. Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopal priest who served in Shadyside in the 1950s and famously challenged the city’s faithful of all denominations to strive to make Pittsburgh “as famous for God as for steel.”

Amen to Action was born out of that sentiment, and Carpenter and a group of Pittsburgh faith leaders helped him form the group. It partners with Florida-based Meals of Hope to make the Friday after Thanksgiving a day of giving back in Pittsburgh.

“It’s time for us to give back. That’s the most important thing for us. We’ve made it a tradition,” said April Shanahan of Franklin Park.

Shanahan, her daughter and their friends stood around one of the hundreds of banquet tables that filled one of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center’s exhibit halls for a morning of meal-making.

They were grouped into teams, given hairnets, trained and started to work with assembly-line precision and efficiency. Volunteers funneled the fixings that made up the oatmeal meal or the soup mix into bags, sealed and boxed them for counting. They will ultimately be distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“Nobody’s asking the question, ‘What church are you from?’ They’re here to be together and to work together,” Carpenter said. “I don’t even know where they’re from. They registered online.”

Volunteers packed 1,029,456 meals in about three hours Friday morning.

More than six tractor-trailers full of food and supplies were used in the endeavor, said Steve Popper, president of Meals of Hope. The event is one of the largest his nonprofit helps to coordinate.

“Our goal is to feed people who are hungry in the U.S.,” Popper said.

The event is a chance to share blessings with others, said Sister Lois, of Felician Sisters of North America, based in Beaver County.

“I think it’s so important to share the gifts God has given us,” she said. “Working together in unity.”

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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