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Donors step up to the plate

| Saturday, Nov. 5, 2005

There will be a turkey on every table this Thanksgiving and a chicken in every pot on Christmas for needy families in Westmoreland County.

The response to news that the Westmoreland County Food Bank had fallen $55,000 short of the needed funds to purchase turkey vouchers for 7,000 families has generated enough pledge money to cover the costs.

"We've got enough of a public response. We will be able to distribute the vouchers to everyone," Marlene Kozak, executive director of the food bank, said Friday. "When I saw the response we got ... one foundation gave $10,000 ... I knew we'd make it. I get calls every day from different clubs asking to adopt a food pantry."

A drop in donations was attributed to local donations to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

The food bank will be distributing 5,404 vouchers this month. The 1,600 other vouchers needed came from food pantries that raised money themselves to distribute vouchers and donations from the KDKA turkey drive, Kozak said.

As of yesterday, 1,932 vouchers had been distributed. Families will continue to receive vouchers through Nov. 22.

And even more help is on the way.

A semi-trailer packed with 1,872 frozen chickens courtesy of the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will arrive at the food bank Nov. 11 for distribution at food pantries throughout December.

"Given the shortfall of contributions to the Westmoreland County Food Bank, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will be donating the chickens to help those in need," said Dino Capestrani, manager of the Lutheran Community Service for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Thrivent Financial is a not-for-profit Fortune 500 financial services organization that sponsors national outreach programs and activities that support congregations, schools, charitable organizations and needy individuals. Thrivent Financial purchased 25,000 turkeys and 37,000 chickens for distribution to needy families in 19 states through its Regional Finance Office Volunteer Event, at a cost of $447,000.

Local financial representatives and volunteers from surrounding Lutheran churches will be unloading the Nov. 11 shipment between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the food bank, located at 100 Devonshire Drive, in Delmont.

Amid all the help that is pouring in to help the food bank assist families this holiday season, Kozak said she is hopeful the charity will continue each year.

"It absolutely helped us. We were facing a $100,000 deficit and going into our reserves and operating budget. We want to be able to make this appeal to the public every year," she said.

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