Diaspora

With little notice, volunteers, sponsors flocked to help meal-delivery … – Sharonherald

Overcast. Low near 25F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph..
Overcast. Low near 25F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: December 27, 2022 @ 4:43 pm
Members of the Elks Club prepare meals as part of Operation Christmas Cheer Friday.
Members of the Froetschel family were among the many volunteers who helped distribute meals..
These cards were just a part of Operation Christmas Cheer, which helped distribute meals throughout the Shenango Valley Friday.
Members of the Atallah family and their neighbors make Christmas cards as part of Operation Christmas Cheer.
Volunteers Leah Sizer, left, and Courtney Cilli were among a few of the many volunteers who helped distributed meals Friday as part of Operation Christmas Cheer.
This food, provided by Haitian Sensation, was just one of the hundreds of meals distributed Friday throughout the Shenango Valley.

Members of the Elks Club prepare meals as part of Operation Christmas Cheer Friday.
Members of the Froetschel family were among the many volunteers who helped distribute meals..
These cards were just a part of Operation Christmas Cheer, which helped distribute meals throughout the Shenango Valley Friday.
Members of the Atallah family and their neighbors make Christmas cards as part of Operation Christmas Cheer.
Volunteers Leah Sizer, left, and Courtney Cilli were among a few of the many volunteers who helped distributed meals Friday as part of Operation Christmas Cheer.
This food, provided by Haitian Sensation, was just one of the hundreds of meals distributed Friday throughout the Shenango Valley.
SHENANGO VALLEY — Despite a winter snowstorm, a community idea turned into a reality Friday, when more than 400 meals were delivered to people in need, elderly shut-ins and first responders of Hermitage, Farrell, Sharpsville, and Sharon including the EMT companies.
“I helped organize these kinds of meal giveaways during the pandemic to help support the area restaurants and people in need and kept hoping that someone would do something like that again this year so that I could get involved,” said Sherris Moreira, owner of The Small Town Storyteller writing company, as well as the director of downtown development for the city of Sharon.
“Finally, last week, one of my best friends said, ‘why are you waiting for someone else to do it? Why not you?’”
With those words echoing in her ears, and only a week to get it together, Moreira reached out to several restaurants and a few friends to see if they’d help with delivery. Within an hour, she had three restaurants on board; more than a dozen friends and business colleagues willing to deliver, and a couple sponsorships on deck.
“I reached out to the Elks Club, who had done it with me in the past, and they were on board right away, followed by Haitian Sensation and Sharon American Legion,” Moreira said.
“I set up an online sign-up form this past Monday and within 24 hours we had all 300 meals taken. We then had two more restaurants interested in helping, so we decided to deliver holiday lunches to all the first-responder groups in Hermitage.”
With the scope of the project growing, she also created an online sign-up form for more volunteer delivery drivers and then decided to make a request for organizations to create holiday cards for all those receiving meals.
When Girl Scout Troop Leader Jodi Witherite saw the post on Facebook, she reached out to her co-leader Jolene McEwan about making it a project for their troop and then it ended up being a project for Shenango Valley Girl Scout Service Unit.
“I thought it was important to be involved in such a wonderful community project to show the girls that small acts of kindness can make a very big impact,” said Witherite, who also signed up to deliver meals with her family on Friday too.
“The quick response to make cards to put with the meals to be delivered was amazing,” she said, adding that the troop created 130 cards.
Other groups that created cards included an Art by Alane art class; Zion Education Center’s preschool; HopeCAT artist Francesca Baldarelli; a fifth grade class at Farrell School District; Miracle Valley Church Youth Group, several families, and friends.
Moreira also touched base with the Community Foundation about handling the sponsorship dollars, and they expressed their support for projects like these.
“It is the Community Foundation’s honor to play a role in supporting the philanthropic creativity that is being exhibited through this initiative,” said Kyle English, executive director of the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.
Funding support was provided by Banjak Heating & Cooling; JCL Energy, and community supporters such as Alice Mattocks, Steve Jubilerer, Kathy Lima, Connie Leon, and Jill Fornelli Stanek, who reached out about donating on behalf of her late father Judge Frances J. Fornelli.
“This year we are spending our first Christmas without my dad. He modeled helping and always stressed the importance of giving back,” said Mrs. Stanek, who also delivered meals with her family.
“As our own family gets older and the kids begin their own lives, it is something that we can still all do together. As our family heads out to deliver meals for Operation: Christmas Cheer, we will be doing this in honor of him. He showed how simple it is to help and I am blessed and lucky to get the opportunity to continue this with our family.”
The food delivery program was also strategic in the restaurant partners they chose.
“I knew the Elks Club was raising money for a new roof and that Haitian Sensation had been closed a couple months earlier this year due to illness, so I knew the funds would help them too,” Moreira said, adding that Smoky Martins BBQ did a lot of donations toward first responders so she liked the idea of paying them this time and Quaker Steak and Lube jumped in to supply lunches for the Sharon first responders.
The Sharon American Legion, who normally donates anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 annually to community needs and projects, decided to donate all their meals for this initiative.
“This is what we do here, helping to serve the local community,” said Dave Koerth, the commander of the Sharon American Legion Post 299. “When she asked us, we said we can do it, it’s a no-brainer, that’s how we roll here at the legion.”
What Moreira didn’t expect was one of the worst snowstorms of the year to hit on Friday.
She gave the 25-plus delivery drivers the option of canceling if they didn’t feel comfortable out in the weather or the option of picking up the meals Friday and delivering them sometime during the weekend when the weather was calmer or delivering them on Friday like planned.
Though a few volunteers canceled because of driving concerns, others showed up to take their place. Almost all the meals were delivered Friday to homes throughout Sharon, Farrell, Hermitage, Sharpsville, West Middlesex, Masury, Ohio, and a few in outlying areas such as Transfer, Greenville, Mercer, and Fredonia. A few more meals will be delivered Saturday.
Primary Health Network Charitable Foundation Director Cheryl Goldstone and her colleague Samantha Shultz provided a couple Primary Health Network delivery vans and drivers to assist, as well as helped coordinate meal pickups at two of the restaurant locations.
“It was an honor being involved in this grass roots event,” said Cheryl Goldstone, who heads the PHN Charitable Foundation. “From making cards, to delivering meals throughout the valley into the eastern part of the county, we could not have asked for anything to add to this day. One of our delivery drivers said he heard so many God bless you’s that it just made his day!”
Francesca Baldarelli of Sharon, who helped deliver meals and make cards, agreed.
“Ever since I moved back to the area, it’s just been hard to me to find my place,” said the HopeCAT art teacher. “I just want to give back and I’m really excited to help out with this and get more involved.”
“I’m still basking in the joy of this happening,” added Moreira, who was grateful for each and every one of the friends, old and new, who came out and helped with the meal delivery initiative Friday and all the businesses and organizations that supported it in a variety of ways.
“It’s a great feeling to come together and help those in need, especially when it helps us feel more connected to the community and each other – the best gift of all!”
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