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Sewickley church group to deliver more than 100 turkeys for Thanksgiving

| Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, 7:48 p.m.

From stuffing to sweet potatoes, green beans to gravy, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and reflect on the joyous events throughout the year. But for some, the holidays are a reminder of difficult times – and empty stomachs.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of members in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – and the gracious donations of good Samaritans – over 100 local people and their families in need will have a hot meal on Thanksgiving.

John Nard, president of the St. James conference, said the church became aware that 100 frozen turkeys were available, and jumped on the opportunity.

“We had another parishioner that participated in a turkey donation for a law firm in Pittsburgh. When she learned that there were 100 turkeys left over from the 700 that were to be distributed, she let us know,” Nard said. “Myself (and) another member hopped in the St. James van and picked them up ourselves.”

In addition to frozen turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy also were among the donations collected, Nard said.

Nard, along with about 15 other members of the society's St. James conference, will deliver the turkeys to Ambridge, Sewickley and Coraopolis areas families in need before the holiday. They learn of those who have fallen on tough times through word of mouth, Nard said. They learn of those who have fallen on tough times through word of mouth, Nard said.

“We rely on our experience from doing this for so long; our reputation for helping others over the years.”

The St. James conference provides emergency assistance year-round to families in the form of food, utility and rent assistance, and furniture.

Rev. Father Thomas Burke has been at St. James since 2012, and said the society members of his church reach out to community throughout the year.

“We have a small food bank in our church basement. Throughout the year, our St. Vincent de Paul members go into the pantry and deliver bags of food on an as-needed basis. During the holidays, they make up boxes consisting of full meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Burke said.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a nationwide organization that depends on the support and involvement of conferences – men and women who support their neighbors in need. St. James Catholic Church in Sewickley is one of the Pittsburgh area conferences, with a donation center located in Coraopolis.

“Neighbors helping neighbors,” Burke said. “We just try to follow the Golden Rule. We don't just take care of our own congregation; we do our best to help others. We know we might never see some of the people again, but we want to provide something for them to help them towards a brighter day.”

Burke said he is extremely proud of his parishioners who are members of the society, like Nard. Nard has been involved with the society since 2005, and knows the importance of helping those who are down, especially around the holidays.

“People need an extra hand all year round – it important to be there. But it's common knowledge that people suffer around the holidays. Picture being along this time of year. If we can help, we want to,” Nard said.

Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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