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October 20, 2012

Butch Wehr: It’s time for others to tackle the turkey

NEW CASTLE — After 26 years of serving the people of Greater New Castle a Thanksgiving Dinner open to one and all, it’s time to pass on the recipes and aprons.

In 1986, I became aware that a local restaurant, The P.O. Lunch, would no longer be providing thiscommunity service. So along with two, hard-working friends, Joann Pelletier and Wayne Alexander, I agreed to take on the job.

Over the course of these years this effort came to be a project of Y.D.C. employees in conjunction with parishioners at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, which provided the kitchen and location. The response of the community was overwhelming. Each year our numbers increased, and so did our need for help.

Fortunately, this wasn’t ever a problem.  The first resource to be tapped was the student body at Y.D.C. These young men and women worked long and hard both on Y.D.C. grounds and on the dinner site.  They helped prepare turkeys, cleaned tables and scoured pots and pans.

Seeing our need, local district magistrates, adult and juvenile probation sent us “volunteers” who owed community service as apart of their sentencing.  I am really happy to report that not only did they do a good job, but many came back in further years as true volunteers.

With a project of this size and duration, it is impossible to recognize the many good folks who gave so freely over the years. However, at the risk of offending some who might have deserved mentioning, I must single out Mike Merici, who ran the kitchen for fully half the years of this effort, and Mike Fornataro from East Side Pharmacy, who was Mike Merici’s right hand man.

Beyond them I would like to recognize efforts and contributions make by local law enforcement, New Castle Transit, Giant Eagle and Pepperidge Farm.

Finally, I would be remiss not to include my own family —  my wife, Sheri, my daughters, Nikki, Alisa, my sisters and their families, who have supported the effort wholeheartedly. Beginning this year, we will have our first family Thanksgiving in 26 years.

I am happy to report  the project goes on,  Rev. Nathen Loudon, pastor of First Presbyterian  Church, along with his deacon, Ann Cochran will begin their Tenure  of the Turkeys. Dinner will be served at First Presbyterian Church , 125 N. Jefferson in the social hall. For the present this is eat-in only, no delivery.

At last, I want to thank everyone who ever carried a plate, mopped a floor, made a pie, washed  a dish, scrubbed a pot, anyone who drove the delivery or manned the phones taking orders .

I have it on the best authority that any and all of our past volunteers will be welcomed with open arms at the First Presbyterian Church Thanksgiving morning.  

If you can give to this worthy cause, by making a pie or giving your time please call Ann Cochran at (724) 658-7398.

God bless you all.

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