Friends of the Poor Thanksgiving Continues Without Sister Adrian

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SCRANTON — More than 1,000 people are sitting down to share Thanksgiving dinner in Scranton, a tradition on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving since 1977.

The Friends of the Poor dinner is continuing without its founder this year.

Organizers expect about 1,200 people to have thanksgiving dinner Tuesday night. They’re also expecting a few hundred people to come for take-out meals.

The Friends of the Poor dinner has grown a lot since its start 39 years ago this year. Volunteers said it was bittersweet after losing Friends of the Poor founder Sister Adrian Barrett earlier this year.

About 1,200 place settings and party favors were laid out with care. The stats from inside the kitchen are even more mind-boggling.

“We cooked 70 35-pound turkeys. We peeled 750 pounds of potatoes today, then everything else comes after it,” said Friends of the Poor head Sister Ann Walsh.

The preparations for the annual Friends of the Poor Thanksgiving dinner may seem like the calm before the storm. But after 39 years, it’s a well-oiled machine powered by volunteers who each have their own reason for being here.

“When I retired and he retired, it is one of our Thanksgiving traditions that we do, giving to the community and sharing,” said Maryann Polanichka of Dalton.

Colleen Carmody tasked her students at Western Wayne to make centerpieces for the dinner and they’ve done so for 16 years.

“This is what I do before I get ready for my own dinner. One year we had a snowstorm and school was canceled, and my colleague and I, we came down just to carry on the tradition,” said Carmody.

The tradition was started by Sister Adrian Barrett who passed away in September at the age of 86.

Sister Adrian made the dinner for 1,000 feel like an intimate family Thanksgiving.

“She always welcomes Western Wayne, we always leave here with a hug from Sister Adrian. We’d always be welcomed with a hug from Sister Adrian. It’s weird to look over in that corner and not see her there,” said Carmody.

The volunteers say they feel her here keeping the big well-oiled machine with a simple mission going.

“If you can provide a safe warm place that they can come in and sit with other people for companionship and get a free meal, it’s worthwhile,” said Linda Howarth of Scranton.

When you combine the meals served and the take-out meals, Friends of the Poor will feed about 1,800 people. Then late Tuesday night, all of tables will be taken down and volunteers will prepare to give out more meals for the Family to Family Thanksgiving basket giveaway.