Nov. 25—POTTSVILLE — After a two-year hiatus, the Knights of Columbus Council 431 of Schuylkill County resumed an annual tradition of delivering free Thanksgiving meals across the county.
Knights and volunteers delivered more than 1,400 meals Thursday morning to those in need in virtually every area of the county, from McAdoo to Pine Grove.
This year's program was the first to be held during the pandemic. As in previous years, the parish center of St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Pottsville served as the hub of activity and starting point for the deliveries.
After the Rev. Philip Rodgers blessed the food, volunteers set to work, filling plastic containers with turkey and trimmings and dropping them off at assigned areas.
Council Grand Knight Michael McFadden said the number of volunteers was "incalculable" and that many were unaffiliated with the church or the knights.
"We've had different groups show up," he said. "I'm just overwhelmed by the support."
When the program was last held in 2019, Knights and volunteers delivered about 1,600 meals. The program was canceled the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For this year's meals, McFadden said, volunteers started by serving the "outliers," or areas toward the fringes of the county, including Tamaqua, Shenandoah and Valley View.
As the morning progressed, they gradually made their way to the center of the county, culminating in deliveries in Saint Clair, Minersville and Pottsville.
The food was prepared ahead of time by culinary students at the Schuylkill Technology Center campuses in Frackville and Mar Lin.
Around midnight Wednesday, a team of volunteers led by Jean Marie Thompson arrived at the church kitchen to start heating the meals, which consisted of turkey, gravy, stuffing, yams, corn and a dessert.
"I'm extremely happy for the support we got through all the volunteers," McFadden said.
Meals were available to anyone who had contacted the Knights of Columbus office ahead of time. Moreover, the Knights welcomed all members of the public interested in volunteering and assisting in the effort.
"We place ads online, in the (Republican Herald), through our church bulletins, and get the word out," McFadden said. "Anyone who wants a meal calls our number, gives them their name, address and phone number, and we just coordinate the logistics."
The Pottsville Knights began their Thanksgiving meal distribution in 2008, with 275 meals served during the inaugural year, followed by more than 400 the next year. The peak was more than 1,920 meals.
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