St. Luke's Mission of Mercy had a lot to be thankful for this past weekend as young volunteers helped to fill bags with Thanksgiving Day goodies for the clients the Buffalo mission serves. Teens from local high schools, parishes and organizations helped with the annual packing event that will feed nearly 3,000 families this holiday season.
The Nov. 23 gathering saw every seat in the former Buffalo church filled with bags holding traditional Thanksgiving staples. Volunteers walked shoulder to shoulder through the aisles filling those bags, as though they were trick or treating for vegetables.
"We've just held bags and people have put in onions, apples. They put in a bunch of chips, pop, anything to help them get through the holidays and help them to take care of their families," explained Marissa Brennan of the bagging process.
The teen came with a group of 15 from St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Akron.
"I love helping out in the community. I always love the feeling of knowing that I helped someone who was in need," she said. "Personally, it gives me great relief knowing I help people who can't help themselves."
"It just makes your heart feel war. It's an awesome feeling," added her brother Sean.
Outside, young men put their athletic skills to good use loading up refrigerated trucks with those same bags.
The entire Canisius High School lacrosse team came to join in the effort forming an assembly line to pack the trucks as part of the Jesuit ideal of "one man for another."
"We're just trying to give back," said Nick Guarente. "We get to have a little bit of fun with it, especially with the whole team here, it makes it a little bit more enjoyable."
"It's not the hardest thing. It's definitely enjoyable," said Thomas Aniol. "It's fun working together. I think we're getting a lot done, so that's good."
Not to be outdone by a rival, St. Francis High School's Alverna peer ministry team came to make sure that needy families didn't miss out on the upcoming holiday festivities.
"On Thanksgiving I get to go with my family, hold hands with mom, dad, sister and brother, pray and eat dinner. I hope other people can too. Doing this will give other people the opportunity," added Abe Kassem from St. Francis.
St. Luke's Mission celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. That's a quarter century of carrying out the corporal works of mercy - feeding the hungry through a daily meal program, sheltering the homeless through transitional housing, clothing the naked through their mission mall, even providing a choir at funerals to help bury the dead. The mission holds two special holiday meal packings for Thanksgiving and Christmas featuring a full meal of chicken, vegetables and dessert. This year the teen volunteers packed over 8,000 bags of food.
"They're tremendous," said David Topor, a 20-year veteran of St. Luke's, of the volunteers. "We couldn't do this without the kids. They are the force that is behind the whole thing happening. There are so many bags to be moved, bags to be made, that without them, this wouldn't happen. They are essential to the process."
Those needing a meal can come to St. Luke's Mission, 325 Walden Ave., Tuesday, Nov. 26 starting at 9 a.m.