SUNBURY — The Moore family has been volunteering on Thanksgiving Day for 13 years, ever since their eldest daughter has been alive.

On Thursday, Jesse and Tessa Moore, of Selinsgrove, helped serve and deliver food for the 24th annual free Thanksgiving dinner that feeds nearly 1,000 people at Zion Lutheran Church Social Hall at Fifth and Market streets in Sunbury. Over the years, Moore brought their children, Lydia, 13, Evelyn, 8, and Silas, 6.

“We were newly married, a new family, and we were looking for a tradition to start as a family,” said Jesse Moore. “It’s a great way to show how thankful we are.”

The first year they volunteered, Lydia was only six months old and hanging out in a pack-and-play while mom and dad served.

“We learned about it through family,” said Tessa Moore. “We knew right away we wanted to do it. It has a sense of community.”

They didn’t participate in 2020 and 2021 due to concerns about COVID-19, so this was their first year back.

“I love being here,” said Lydia Moore. “I love being around people. It’s a really great space to be in.”

Friends Denise Mercaldo, of Mifflinburg, and Denise Gulliver, of Northumberland, filled containers with turkey and the fixings to be delivered to shut-ins and high-rise residents within a five-mile radius.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” said Mercaldo. “It’s a good thing and I like to volunteer.”

“It always puts you in a better mood when you’re helping other people,” said Gulliver.

The McAllister family decided this year to forgo a big family dinner and volunteer their time.

“We decided as a family that it would be better to help people rather than have a holiday for ourselves,” said Quin McAllister, who came with her parents Ruby and Rodney McAllister, of Liverpool.

Steve Brosious and Connie Bohner, of Sunbury, said they have been coming for the meal for several years. It’s especially helpful this year with rising prices and inflation, they said.

“This year has had its moments,” said Brosious. “It’s not been all peaches and cream.”

Bohner said she likes the people, their attitudes, being able to get along with everyone there and the good food.

“I like the atmosphere,” said Brosious. “It’s special year after year. It’s a blessing in disguise.”

Ed Zerbe, of Northumberland, said the free meal and groceries are helpful because he lives by himself. He also picked up food for his neighbor.

“I’m thankful for the food,” said Zerbe. “I wish I could help more and remember a time when I didn’t need help. It helps a lot.”

Coordinator Rhonda Fisher said the number of meals for the high rises and community outreach is “astronomical.”

“Today is the least of volunteers that I’ve had, but it’s remarkable,” said Fisher. “Everybody is pulling together and working together. We’re making it work.”

Fisher said she is thankful going into 24 years of this meal.

“We’re able to do it all together in this building,” said Fisher. “I am so grateful the church opened its doors back to us, and we’re able to be here and serve our community.”

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