Thanksgiving tradition: Hundreds pitch in to help feed thousands

THANKS santa pizza vinny's pizza

Having worked up a hearty appetite at packing day, Santa Claus gets a slice of Vinny’s Pizza from Becky Barnes. Vinny’s Pizza, the Millsboro business owned by Vinny Mazzella, provided free pizza to the hundreds of volunteers.

SELBYVILLE – Tens of thousands of people on Delmarva will likely enjoy a hearty holiday meal thanks to efforts of hundreds of volunteers and a caring Delmarva community.

Mountaire Farms’ Selbyville warehouse facility was a busy beehive Monday as 7,000 boxes – each containing a Mountaire roaster and fixings – were packed and loaded in refrigerated trucks, destined for distribution to needy recipients in time for Thanksgiving.

THANKS selbyville MS samantha bunting, kree lowe abby hurley

Selbyville Middle School eighth graders, from left, Samantha Bunting, Kree Lowe and Abby Hurley help pack family dinner boxes.

“You cannot beat the feeling of Delmarva when there is somebody in need; the feeling of wanting to help a neighbor,” said Mountaire Farms spokesman Roger Marino. “Whether you live in Delaware, Maryland or Virginia, it’s all one community.”

Selbyville Middle School’s eighth grade Honors Society members pitched in to help.

Sussex Tech’s football team – its season having ended several days earlier with a state playoff loss to Middletown – was back for a second year, providing muscle and manpower.

The Ravens’ participation is tied to community service through the school’s leadership development initiative. A canned food drive was part of their volunteer effort.

“It just emphasizes that we are about more than just football,” said Sussex Tech junior Jordan Marvel. “It’s about brotherhood. And it keeps us together.”

Patriotic membership at American Legion Post 28 and the Legion Riders brought Lorraine and Bob Prouse to the packing day frenzy.

“The motorcycle group always comes down,” said Mr. Prouse.

Thanks techs jordan marvel and mountaire's lafayette ferebee

Jordan Marvel, a member of the Sussex Tech football squad, and Mountaire employee Lafayette Ferebee move a pallet of food boxes.

Volunteers working up an appetite on the packing lines were treated to free pizza – cheese as well as assorted toppings – courtesy of Vinny’s Pizza.

“It’s to help people … and give something back,” said Vinny Mazzella, owner of the Millsboro-based business.

Millsboro resident Virginia Lee Flood was dressed for the occasion – in her head-to-toe elf suit.

“I don’t care if people laugh. It’s a conversation piece. I do it every year I’m here,” said Ms. Flood. “Last year, I missed it. I was in the hospital. The nurse wouldn’t let me out.”

That kind of kind compassion in part has transformed what began as a small packing spree into a spectacle that for some is as much a tradition as Thanksgiving.

“It has become a real tradition and it’s a volunteer tradition. That is really what I envisioned and what we all envisioned,” said Mr. Marino.

Dagsboro Church of God, which initially cooked up the effort to feed the need, is the focal distribution point.

“This all started 21 years ago. Actually Dagsboro Church of God started by cooking meals on Thanksgiving for a few years. Then we partnered with Mountaire Farms to create the boxes,” said Curtis Jones, Business Pastor at Dagsboro COG. “One of the exciting things about this is it gives families the opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner together. As far as how it has grown, we have gone from a few boxes to 7,000 boxes we are doing this year.”

THANKS tyrone bullock karen yost volunteer

Mountaire employee Tyrone Bullock instructs volunteers on packing canned goods in dinner boxes.

It is estimated to feed 35,000 to 40,000 people all over Delmarva.

“We have literally over 100 organizations that partner with us to help,” Pastor Jones said.

“Twenty-one years ago we did 300 boxes. And the entire community seemed to be satisfied. Nobody complained about not having enough,” said Mr. Marino. “Last year we did over 10,000 boxes. This year we did 7,000 and we have hundreds of people on the waiting list. People say times are better. Really, they are not better for a lot of people.”

The steady flow of volunteers began before 8 a.m. and continued into the afternoon.

“It’s amazing. If they help one year normally they get hooked,” said Pastor Jones. “And they’ll be here every year. We have a handful of people that have been here since Day 1.”

State Rep. Dave Wilson, R-Lincoln, and U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., were among the elected officials who stopped by to lend a hand.

“That’s what it’s all about. It’s not a political thing. It’s not a corporate thing. It’s a community thing,” Mr. Marino said.

The bulk of canned goods and fixings were gathered by volunteers soliciting donations at 17 supermarkets back on Nov. 7. Mountaire provided what was needed to complete the order.

Packed in the boxes is information on job opportunities with Mountaire.

“I have a deep internal feeling about doing this,” said Mr. Marino. “I have seen people come here who are homeless and have actually gotten a job from it, and have moved on from there.”

THANKS virginia lee flood volunteer boxes with tech players

Dressed as Santa’s elf, Virginia Lee Flood of Millsboro folds boxes with members of the Sussex Tech football team.

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