SPARTA, NJ – In just a few hours, several volunteers put together about 1400 prepared Thanksgiving meals for local folks in need.  The time they spent on Sunday at the United Methodist Church of Sparta was the culmination of efforts by Mitch Morrison who brought together more than 100 volunteers and donations from local farmers, restaurants, organizations and individuals for a display of Love in Action.

“This event is amazingly organized,” Mancuso Salon’s Jacqueline Cox said. “It takes a great amount of passion and logistics to gather enough donations and volunteers to package over 1,000 meals to be distributed in about an hours time. What a blessing this event is to the surrounding community and to everyone who is able to contribute.”

On Monday the meals were delivered to Manna House, DASI, Birth Haven, the Sussex County Food Pantry, the Center for Prevention, Choose to Connect, the Newton Baptist Church, NORWESCAP, the Branchville Presbyterian Church, the Vernon Senior Center and others.

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“We are always happy to help  in any way that we can,” Tracey deWaal from Andre’s restaurant said. “Andre and I are honored to be a part of this beautiful example of our community coming together for the good of others in need.”

The Newton Medical Center also put together 250 meals that were delivered by SCARC on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Administration and the Foodservice department at Newton Medical Center would like to thank Mitch Morrison, Janis Woersching, and SCARC for making it possible for all of us as a team to help our community by preparing and delivering Thanksgiving meals,” Dan Kous said. “This has become a tradition for us at NMC, and we look forward to this event every year.”

"Hunger doesn't take a holiday,” T Love from Sojuhuggles Children’s Foundation said. “One of the goals of Sojihuggles Children's Foundation is to end hunger. We are honored to participate in this community-wide effort to provide food to the residents of Sussex County who otherwise would not have a Thanksgiving dinner."

“This event is amazingly organized! It takes a great amount of passion and logistics to gather enough donations and volunteers to package over 1,000 meals to be distributed in about an hour of time. What a blessing this event is to the surrounding community and to everyone who is able to contribute. Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of it.”

Mishelle Downtain, Vernon Direction of Recreation and Community Affairs said, “Thank you so very much for organizing this wonderful community meal train! It is absolutely amazing the amount of people that take part in making this happen and we are very grateful to part of it. We have many residents who frequent our Senior Center that may not have a traditional family holiday dinner so they truly appreciate the delicious home cooked meals you kindly bring!

“Thank you so very much for organizing this wonderful community meal train! It is absolutely amazing the amount of people that take part in making this happen and we are very grateful to part of it,” Chris Butto, Executive Director of Family Promise said. “We have many residents who frequent our Senior Center that may not have a traditional family holiday dinner so they truly appreciate the delicious home cooked meals you kindly bring.”

People from throughout the county, young and old, came together to assemble the donated food into donated containers, creating prepared Thanksgiving dinners.

The experience of giving at Thanksgiving has made an impression on High Point Regional High School sophomore Leia Ruvo.

She said, “I started doing these Thanksgiving dinners With Mitch when I was in sixth grade.  Back then families came to the Presbyterian Church in Branchville to pick up their meals.  I remember one of my classmates and her mom came to pick up their meal and I had no idea that her dad had left them.  She told me her mom was looking for work and things were really tough for them. We hugged and cried together.  That experience taught me to be grateful for everything I’ve been given. It also made me want to continue helping people.  My Brother, Tai, and my friends, Hannah Doyle, Sahas Suri and Andrew Brevot come and volunteer too. It’s become our own special Thanksgiving tradition. Mitch is truly inspirational.”

The opportunity to help was uplifting and as important to the volunteers as to those who received the meals.

“Thank you for helping the Newton Public Schools to provide Thanksgiving meals for 46 of our families,” Elysia Ochs said. “Our families appreciate the careful preparation of the meals and thank you everyone involved.” 

 “It's a beautiful thing when you can walk into a room full of strangers and instantly feel such a strong connection and sense of community,” Celebrate Life author Marcello Pedalino said. “Mitch organized an impressive team that was focused and happy to be there.  Refreshingly, no one was staring at their phone or arguing about politics.   Everyone at this event knew that if you want to feel good, you do good. It was an awesome experience and definitely a collaboration that I'll be a part of again next year.  My family really enjoyed spreading a little love and joy to some very deserving folks.”

Tom Kalopoulos from the Greek Kitchen said, "The Greek Kitchen was beyond excited to participate and donate desserts to such an extraordinary event that helps so many in need.  Watching the volunteers work together preparing these meals was such a remarkable sight.  We can't wait to contribute again next year.”

Many donated food as well as their time putting plates together:

  • The Garden at Genesis Farm donated 30 pounds of Bolero carrots, 70 pounds of Garnett sweet potatoes and 70 pounds of butternut squash.
  • Samantha, Lianna and Nina DeValley donated two trays of stuffing,
  • Becky Carlson donated three pumpkin pies,
  • The Putnam family donated carrots and brussels sprouts,
  • Janice Stevens donated sweet potato souffle,
  • The Parriots volunteered to plate,
  • Sara, Molly and Lyla Morrison donated cookies and pies,
  • Amanda and Boo Bear Morrision volunteered to plate,
  • Sandra Morrison donated a turkey and was the photographer,
  • Care Pierrot donated four full pans of  stuffing,
  • Carole Branco donated chocolate cookies,
  • Cindy Da Silva and family donated sides,
  • Jennifer Cable donated a turkey and tray of roasted vegetables,
  • Ann Monesmith donated cookies and a gift,
  • Krystal Shadis donated four pumpkin pies,
  • Erin Shrill Collins volunteered to plate,
  • The Radfords donated a full turkey dinner,
  • The Mastersons donated a tray of turkey, tray of vegetables and a tray of potatoes,
  • The Kalo Farm; Danielle and Tom donated two trays of desserts,
  • Rachel Wallace donated stuffing, mashed potatoes and two turkey breasts,
  • Linda Kadar and Girl Scout Troop 94576 donated baked ziti man course trays,
  • Korey Lee donated four trays of scalloped potatoes and four trays of stuffing,
  • More Thyme Catering donated a turkey,
  • Fossil Farms donated 10 trays of turkey,
  • Peggy Askew volunteered to plate,
  • Atlantic Health – Newton Medical Center donated 250 prepared meals,
  • Windy Brow Farm donated refrigeration for meals and 25 pies,
  • Sohihuggles Children’s Foundation donated 600 sliced turkey serving, 20 pumpkin and 20 apple pies,
  • Kathia Calmet Yurchak donated a tray of sweet potato casserole,
  • Lee, Lorraine and Elaine Daly donated vegetable sides,
  • Kathy Braun donated a whole turkey, sides and pounds of ziti,
  • Linda and Isabella Verdesco donated two trays fo baked ziti,
  • Lynn Vannosdall donated 24 cans of cranberry sauce,
  • Bob DeMuth donated trays fo stuffing,
  • Marcello and Isabella Pedalino donated broccoli and sweet potatoes,
  • Kate Matteson, family and friends donated a turkey,
  • Mara Lou Villapando and daughters volunteered to plate,
  • Karen Vandergroef donated two trays of baked ziti,
  • Erica Lamphear and family volunteered to plate,
  • Roxana Perez and family donated cornbread,
  • Courtney Laws donated green bean casserole, potatoes, a salad and dressing
  • Marie Marra volunteered to plate,
  • Terra Meierdierck donated two trays of green beans,
  • Pass it Along at Sussex County Community College donated 200 dinner rolls
  • Meals with Kindness donated stuffing,
  • Roxanne DeMauro donated large tray of corn and large tray of carrot salad,
  • Nancy Ruvo donated turkey and stuffing,
  • Michelle Ingoglia donated five dozen chocolate chip cookies and five dozen snickerdoodle, eight loaves of pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie cupcakes
  • Mancuso’s Salon had volunteers, Jackie donated sweet potatoes,Teena donated Broccoli souffle, Jessica donated lasagna, Gabby donated mac and cheese, Keira donated lasagna, Anissa donated mashed potatoes,
  • The Kesselman family donated three pies,
  • France and Delle Donne donated one gray of green bean almondine and a tray of spinach gratin,
  • Kate Leonard donated a carved turkey,
  • Emma Lavin donated mashed sweet and white potatoes,
  • Peggy Campbell donated turkey, stuffing, potatoes and cranberry sauce,
  • Noelia and Scarlett donated gravy and volunteered,
  • Brian Dolan volunteered to plate,
  • Valerie Macchio donated sides, gravy and dinner rolls,
  • Bridget Peek donated roasted brussels sprouts and sautéed green beans,
  • Sonja O’Connell and son volunteered to plate,
  • Genesis Farm donated sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash,
  • Andre’s Lakeside Dining donated 500 gravy servings, single serve containers, aprons and gloves,
  • Terry Schuchman donated garbage bags, packing tape and ziplock bags,
  • Vicky Que and team donated lasagna,
  • Ginny Nowell donated mashe cheese potatoes and tray of green bean casserole,
  • Christine Parauda volunteered to plate,
  • Nancy Purnell donated sides, trays of corn pudding and boxes,
  • Jennifer Munier and family volunteered to plate,
  • Anne Geller donated two cases of organic baby food,
  • Joan Donahue donated carrot pudding

The next Love in Action opportunity will be their annual holiday caroling event at the Andover Nursing Home on December 8.  Contact Morrison for details.