Louie Ferdinand and Olga Lantigua are two of the many volunteers that served the first Hazleton Thanksmas meal.
Ferdinand said those in the kitchen know what they have to do to ensure a successful meal each year, starting with supply orders the group makes in November in order to fulfill the projected 450 meals. Volunteers on Friday could be found rolling 500 meatballs and cooking 60 pounds of hot sausage while stirring 35 gallons of tomato sauce.
The meal celebrates not only Italian ethnic food but Polish and Hispanic, too. Lantigua and Niurka De La Rosa spent three days marinating and cooking traditional roasted chicken and pork dishes made in the Dominican Republic.
At 8 a.m. Sunday, volunteers like Eddie Parlatore funneled into the community center to make last-minute preparations, including placing the food in a steam tray and boiling pasta and pierogies, which would be dressed with traditional butter and onions.
When it first began, Ferdinand said the meal featured five items and now it boasts nine — all of which are made from scratch, including the pierogies which come from Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish, near the center on Laurel Street. Carol Baran, Hazleton, could be found with other volunteers slicing up pieces of cake from Giant Food Stores, which donated all of the staples used in the holiday feast, according to Ferdinand. Baran, who has volunteered with the dinner since it began, said she is glad to help each year.
Ferdinand said the center could use a secondary stove to cater to people’s needs as the meal continues to grow each year.
More volunteers, Maddon said, are needed as are contributors to help see the success of the center grow. He encouraged others to fill in “the blanks in their lives with meaningful moments,” by helping out the children at the center. Even an hour a week volunteering at Hazleton One Community Center can make a difference, Maddon said.
Maddon said this year the center has a lot to be thankful for, including gymnasium renovations. He said children attending the center are noticeably engaged in the center’s activities as evidenced by photography on display in the cafeteria. There’s a “greater energy,” Maddon said, of the center, which continues to gradually improve itself.
Maddon’s 2015 visit included five days of activities instead of the previous year’s four-day tour. A baseball clinic for coaches was held Wednesday, followed by a Thursday news conference, a Friday dinner and silent auction featuring former MLB All-Star Manny Ramirez and former NFL star and boxer Ed “Too Tall” Jones.
Saturday was the fifth annual Family Christmas Celebration and Hazleton’s Kids Have Talent at the Wiltsie Center, but, Maddon said he wants to do more for Hazleton and is trying to organize other community events throughout the year, such as a Wiffle Ball tournament that will raise money for diabetes.
Goodwill events, Maddon said, are needed year round in communities across America.