Friends of the Poor Fills Stomachs and Hearts

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SCRANTON -- Hundreds of people gathered for an early Thanksgiving meal Tuesday night in downtown Scranton. It's a tradition that's been around for four decades.

This is the 40th Friends of the Poor Thanksgiving Dinner. It's grown over the years. This tradition was started to feed people but also to provide the company that's also needed this time of year.

Only a few people see the Scranton Cultural Center's transformation into a Thanksgiving masterpiece -- their volunteers who have made the annual dinner part of their tradition.

"I just came up one year to volunteer and I've been here ever since. My father was a Mason here and I kind of grew up in this building," said Linda Horvath.

The old Masonic temple hosts a lot of grand events. This is one of the biggest and most special. The giant Thanksgiving dinner table will feed a few hundred people, all through the work of volunteers.

"I'm like the flex man," said James Brown. "If I'm not serving, I'm cooking. They'll have something for me to do."

Pumpkin pie and all the fixings were ready to go before the dinner. It all takes a lot to prepare, but the servers say they are fed, too.

"It's good giving back to the community," said Brown.  "I actually really, really enjoy it, seeing all the gatherings, everybody coming together, especially this time of the season. It's fulfilling."

The organization's efforts are led by Sister Ann Walsh from the Friends of the Poor. She says the Thanksgiving dinner is more food for the soul than anything else.

"I like to just walk among the crowd and talk with them during the dinner because I love to hear their stories and why they're here and how much it means to them," said Sr. Walsh. "I know people look forward to it for such a long time and so enjoy being here. It's community, it's family, it's friends and Thanksgiving."

The dinner is a tradition for the volunteers that put it all together. It's also a tradition for many of the people who come to eat. Many of them came because they didn't have anyone to have Thanksgiving with and they've come back year after year.