Free Thanksgiving dinners fill bodies and souls

Nov. 24—SCRANTON — Conversation filled the room as guests enjoyed a hearty Thanksgiving meal Thursday afternoon at Green Ridge Assembly of God.

The community dinner was one of several held throughout Lackawanna County that offered food and fellowship to anyone looking to spend time together.

David Twiss, lead pastor of Green Ridge Assembly of God, feels the companionship is just as important as the food for some people.

"We have a body, a soul and a spirit," Twiss said. "We want to be able to feed their body, but at the same time give them something a little extra to feed their soul and spirit."

Pastor Mike Revilak began volunteering at the dinner this year following the death of his mother and believes it's a vital resource for many who have nowhere else to go.

"A lot of people are here because they don't have family," he said.

Paul and Jane Ward were also happy to help provide a nourishing dinner to those in need.

"Both of our daughters had been in retail for years, so we wouldn't do Thanksgiving at our house," Paul Ward said. "When the program started, we thought what better way to give back to the community. For some people, this may be the only hot meal they get this week."

The church, which started offering the dinners in 2011, typically serves about 100 to 250 meals each year, and Paul Ward noted some volunteers bring along their children to lend a hand.

"It's a lesson in giving back," he said.

Roberta Onyango, 53, of Montclair, New Jersey, attended the dinner with family, including her mother, Mary Morrison, of Scranton, a member of the church, and was touched by the hospitality.

"This is really nice," Onyango said. "You say hello to people you saw the last time you were here and they remember you. It's so sweet and I'm so grateful to be here amongst such welcoming people."

A free Thanksgiving dinner has also been hosted at Eagle Hose Company in Dickson City since 1999. Judie Senkow-Richards and her husband, Brian Richards, have volunteered for about 20 years and took over running the event from Dr. J. Donald Kazmerski this year.

"We didn't want to see the people who have been coming for years do without," Brian Richards said. "We figured we'd take a chance and give it a shot."

Senkow-Richards also stressed the importance of continuing the dinner, which has served 280 to 300 people in recent years.

"We've seen a lot of people who come back every year, which means a lot to me," she said. "It seems to increase every year. One gentleman walked from Olyphant to get here — it took him 55 minutes."

Thomas Hanna, 57, of Old Forge, a disabled combat veteran, also attended the dinner last year and appreciates the efforts of the many volunteers who organize the meal.

"A lot of vets need this because post-traumatic stress disorder pushes people away from you and the next thing you know you're by yourself," he said. "I think it's great for somebody who doesn't have anyplace to go for Thanksgiving. You're not alone and you can eat."

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9131; @rtomkavage on Twitter.