Putting the giving in Thanksgiving

Putting the giving in Thanksgiving


Diocese of Camden’s Social Services staff members share traditions they have that help them remember the less fortunate on Thanksgiving.

Bringing Thanksgiving to the Door

Rosemary DeQuinzio, Veteran Services Outreach Case Worker, Catholic Charities

“My mom passed away in August 2014. Each Thanksgiving I would make a big dinner, invite everyone who did not have a place to go along with my family, and just have fun with family and friends. But when my mom passed away, I really did not feel much like cooking, baking or entertaining.

“A friend of mine told me about a program that delivers Thanksgiving dinners to shut-ins. We picked up the meals in Pitman and delivered them to families in Bridgeton. I visited the homes of seniors at the high rise, seniors who were unable to get out for the holiday: no transportation or no family. It took all day, but not only was it satisfying, I had such a great time. Each and every person that I came in contact with was just so grateful.

“So, this year I will be doing the same and having a great Thanksgiving.”

Feeding the Hungry on Thanksgiving

Naisha Mendez, Welfare to Work Case Manager, Catholic Charities

As a child, Naisha would accompany her parents to feed the homeless during the cold winter months in Philadelphia. As she got older, she started volunteering on her own through her church.

She started an arts-focused student organization in her first year of college in Puerto Rico and decided that service needed to be a part of it. Each year on Thanksgiving (a very popular holiday in Puerto Rico) she and her group visited a different institution to serve a meal and spend time with those who couldn’t be with friends or family. Their first year, they visited an orphanage; the second year, a women’s detention center. In her third and final year, the group handed out Thanksgiving breakfast and lunch bags to the homeless on the streets.

Naisha says it’s important to her to remember the less fortunate on Thanksgiving. “You’re very fortunate to have a good meal with your family and friends. There are many people who don’t and I’ve spent time with them, people whose friends and family don’t come to visit on Thanksgiving.”

Invited to be Part of the Family

Ronald Pilla, Maintenance, Victorian Towers, Diocese of Camden Housing Services Corporation

Ronald and Mary Pilla live in an apartment in Cape May’s Victorian Towers, a 55 and older living community of the Diocese of Camden’s Housing Services Corporation, where Ronald works in maintenance. Prior to the move four years ago, their whole family used to come to their house for Thanksgiving.

The tradition didn’t end their first year in Victorian Towers. Because of the more limited space in the apartment, they simply moved the feast to the common activity room. But that first year, they had some unexpected guests. Residents noticed them in the common room and were invited to join in the feast. Ronald realized that many of the seniors living in the building had nowhere to go on Thanksgiving, either because they didn’t have family around or couldn’t travel to be with them. He decided to turn the family’s Thanksgiving feast into an event for the whole building.

Now, going on its fifth year, he invites anyone who wishes to come to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in the common room. The whole Pilla family — his three children and eight grandchildren — help cook and serve the meal for up to 60 people. Some of the residents, too, contribute to the feast, bringing desserts or side dishes. The one rule is no room deliveries. You have to come downstairs and be part of the family.

“Everyone should have a place to go on a Holiday; we always had somebody extra at our table,” Ronald said. “It makes us feel good to know that the residents feel like they always have a family at the Towers.”

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