Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:16PM - 235 Views

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Eager volunteers zipped around the old Seton Catholic auditorium helping to gather Christmas dinners for families in need.

Wednesday's fourth annual Christmas Turkey and Trimmings Giveaway was hosted again by St. John the Evangelist's collective volunteer organizations, giving a turkey, fresh oranges, milk and all the fixings to 568 families in need.

Peggy Burke, coordinator for the Greater Pittston Food Pantry, stood at the front of the line guiding families to the sign-in desk.

Burke said the food pantry has more than 1,000 registered families who get fresh meat and fruit, milk and dry goods from the pantry regularly and the Christmas dinner giveaway is an extension of their efforts to those families.

She said they use the government's poverty and low-income guidelines to determine how food should be distributed to those who need it most.

One man stood in line waiting to get food for his daughter's family. He said he would rather not share his name, but that he was glad for programs like this.

Times are tough, he said.

Though he is retired, he said, his daughter, a single mother, works nights to care for her children so he volunteered to get Christmas dinner for them that brisk Wednesday morning.

Racks of donated winter coats and tables full of knitted hats, scarves and mittens were there for those who needed them.

Burke, who also serves as the parish knitting ministry's director, said the knitters work year round for this event.

She said one member, Barbara Francovich of Exeter, knitted more than 100 pairs of mittens for hands of all sizes.

Burke said many of the families receiving food regularly from the pantry are out of work, single working mothers who need a little help to make ends meet and a few homeless.

Many people come in and say, ‘I wish I didn't have to call,' Burke said.

She told of families who take the free food when they need it, then donate to the pantry when they get back on their feet.

Burke reveled at the massive donations given by business owners, parishioners and families who want to help.

Our community has been unbelievably supportive, Burke said.

She said the Commission on Economic Opportunity, the Girl Scouts, firefighters and schools; they all pitched in to give a Christmas dinner for needing families.

Msgr. John Bendik, pastor at St. John the Evangelist, sat at the sign-in table greeting people with a Merry Christmas, and a kind smile.

Bendik said he was amazed by the support for their efforts, and seemed proud that even Pittston's mayor and police chief showed up to help.

As volunteers and families bustled around him, Bendik said the old Seton High School building was nearly rented out eight years ago when the school closed. Because they chose to keep it, the church's half dozen volunteer organizations, including health clinics and the Greater Pittstion Kid's Closet, now have a place to help people.

The school used to be used for educational purposes, now it is being used to proclaim the Gospel, Bendik said.

How to help

To make a donation or to inquire about the pantry's services, call (570) 654-9923.

Burke said many of the families receiving food regularly from the pantry are out of work, single working mothers who need a little help to make ends meet and a few homeless.

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