SCRANTON — The Friends of the Poor apostolate is proud to announce, once again, its three community-based programs to help feed — in body & soul — the region’s less fortunate this Thanksgiving.

Volunteers with the Family to Family Food Basket Program distribute hundreds of food bags outside the Scranton Cultural Center in 2022.

The 47th annual holiday program is incorporating new collaborative partners to aid the Friends of the Poor’s Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults & Elderly, Family to Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, and the kick-off Interfaith Prayer Service.

“The Thanksgiving Community Program has never been one to operate in a silo,” Meghan Loftus, president and CEO of Friends of the Poor, said. “From its humble beginnings feeding a few dozen community members, our program has relied on the generosity of area individuals, businesses and institutions to make the holiday special for those who often go without.”

Nearly 50 years later, the same remains true today as efforts have been well underway to prepare and serve 3,500 meals and provide another 3,500 families with Thanksgiving groceries.

A sponsored work of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious community, Friends of the Poor this year officially welcomes the Catherine McAuley Center and Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank as partners in service for the Thanksgiving Community Program.

“This further proves that we are stronger together than we ever could be alone,” Loftus commented, noting that the McAuley Center will offer support staff for each event to help accommodate the projected increase in need, and the Weinberg Food Bank will provide the turkeys for the cooked Thanksgiving take-out meal.

The Thanksgiving program series of events begins on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. with the Interfaith Prayer Service hosted at Temple Hesed, 1 Knox Road, Scranton. All are welcome to attend and participate in the prayer service celebrating gratitude as the cornerstone of the area’s faith traditions and the true meaning of the holiday.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, University of Scranton students will get hands-on insight into the inner workings of the Family to Family program, as the University’s Center for Service and Social Justice will provide Thanksgiving menu items to 200 families in the Hilltop and Valley View housing developments within the Scranton Housing Authority.

The traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults & Elderly will be distributed, take-out style, for the fourth year in a row on Tuesday, Nov. 21, outside the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 North Washington Ave,. Scranton., from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Anyone in need of a cooked Thanksgiving meal is welcome to drive-thru or walk-up for the packaged dinner. No pre-registration or proof of income is required. During this time the 400 & 500 blocks of North Washington and Vine streets will be closed for traffic control.

Patrons are requested to arrive no sooner than 2 p.m. to facilitate the delivery of approximately 1,500 meals to pre-registered, low-income seniors with continued assistance from the dedicated volunteer drivers from the Junior League of Scranton.

The following morning, Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, Nov. 22, the Family to Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, under the direction of the Robeson Family, will pick up where the dinner left off.

Beginning at 9 a.m., various grocery items that will allow families to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal in their homes will be provided in front of the Scranton Cultural Center on North Washington Ave. until 5 p.m., or while supplies last.

Also a drive-thru event with no need for pre-registration or proof of income, this event will include a dedicated tent with supplies and volunteers to assist those arriving for walk-up service.

“We’ve all seen an incredible increase in need in our area over the last several years,” Loftus concluded. “The number of families seeking assistance from Friends of the Poor every day is astonishing, and the holidays add to that number.”

She added that while many families struggle to make ends meet each week throughout the year, the holidays bring with them additional expenses many simply cannot afford.

“We are making every effort to extend as much as we can to meet this need, but we cannot do it without the help of dozens of organizations who partner with us, and every member of our community who wishes to share the magic of the season with a neighbor in need,” Loftus concluded.