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In Hard Times, Volunteers Provide Thanksgiving Feast

'Thanksgiving Cook & Serve' benefits families impacted by the recession.

While the economy has caused turmoil for many in recent years, some of those from Somerset County found an escape on Sunday at the annual Thanksgiving Cook & Serve at Bridgewater's People Care Center.

Marty and Lorraine Parrella were among the 200 who came together to share a meal and some laughs.

“We’ve come for the past five or six years,” Marty Parrella said. “We meet nice people here and the meals are good.”

“It’s a plus to get out and meet some of our friends that we haven’t seen in a while,” Lorraine Parrella added.

The Parrellas have been challenged by the economy. The Thanksgiving Cook & Serve, which caters primarily to residents who have fallen on hard times, is a way for people to have a high-quality meal provided for them.

This has become especially important for families and residents who are struggling to keep some of life’s necessities intact—including, for some, their homes.

“We’ve always had a home,” Lorraine Parrella said. “I wouldn’t want to have to try and live homeless. What little you have, you appreciate.”

Since 1968, this event has been giving Somerset County residents something to appreciate. It was originally spearheaded by the Somerville Youth Development Project, which became part of the Somerset County Food Bank in 1983.

The event has been sponsored by the food bank ever since, and has gained in importance for a variety of local residents in recent years.

“Some people don’t have the jobs like they did before,” said Chet Williams, of the Somerset County Food Bank. “Here, you have folks coming from rich, coming from poor [backgrounds]. This is history here. This has been happening for a long time.”

Volunteers were heavily involved in the two-day preparation for the event. On Saturday, volunteers from the now-defunct Somerset County Association of Young Professionals and other groups cooked nearly 20 turkeys before preparing the rest of the trimmings—including desserts—and serving patrons on Sunday.

The Somerset County Association of Young Professionals, which officially disbanded in 2007, gets together once a year just to volunteer for this event. Many of the volunteers are happy for the opportunity to give back to the community.

“For me, it’s heartwarming to help everybody in need,” former Somerset County Association of Young Professionals member Marie Ivanov said. “It makes me realize that my problems aren’t as big as they seem to me.”

Anyone from the public can volunteer their time and culinary efforts to the event, and it has seen a large outpouring of public support, according to event chairwoman Betty Krupka.

“I get a lot of people from the community who want to volunteer, really, more than we can use,” Krupka said. “A lot of people want to give their time.”

People can still make donations of food and other items to the Somerset County Food Bank. Krupka said that the food bank will be looking for turkey and ham donations throughout the holiday season.

To learn more or to donate, visit the food bank’s website.

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