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Vandergrift Community Watch provides Thanksgiving dinner to 40 families

posted Nov 29, 2019, 8:09 AM by Joseph Gray

Vandergrift police Officer Joe Gray and former councilman Brian Carricato fill boxes with turkey dinners for needy families in 2016.

Forty families in Vandergrift will have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this week thanks to the town’s Community Watch and donations from community establishments.

The Vandergrift Community Watch organized Thanksgiving packages for the families, complete with turkeys, potatoes, vegetables and more.

In the four years his group has been putting on this event, Vandergrift police Officer Joe Gray said this is the largest number of families it’s been able to feed.

Gray, leader of the watch group and coordinator of the Thanksgiving packages, said this project is an opportunity to go beyond the everyday duties of a police officer.

“Part of policing is caring about your community and helping your community flourish,” Gray said.

The group began gathering supplies in September.

Donations of food, canned goods and money came from St. Vincent DePaul Society, students at North Primary School, Vandergrift First Baptist Church and several local establishments. Gray said organizing was helped by his family, Vandergrift Mayor Barb Turiak, Councilwoman Kathy Chvala and many Vandergrift police officers.

The 40 turkeys were donated by Jones Turkey Farm in the Cabot section of Winfield.

David C. Jones, the turkey farm owner, said he’s given every year to the Community Watch’s cause. He also donates turkeys to local churches during the holidays, and when customers come to the farm short on money, he said he will often give them a turkey anyway.

The large turkey donation is really what allowed the Community Watch to arrange so many packages, Gray said.

Four years ago, Gray said the group made packages for only five families. The next year, they made 20 packages; the year after that, they made 35. He is hopeful that the program can continue to grow.

“We’re grateful for all we get,” Gray said. “People are very, very receptive to it, so we’re hopeful.”

Gray worked with school resource officers in the Kiski Area School District to identify families in need. Gray said most of the families receiving packages this year had no idea they would get one.

The Thanksgiving care packages are just one of the holiday care packages Gray organizes.

The Vandergrift Police Department also runs an “Adopt-a-Family” program for the Christmas season to provide a meal and gifts for a local family. Gray said this year’s family has already been “adopted.”

The department is accepting donations of money, food and toys.

Marilee Kessler, a regular participant of the Community Watch, was proud to see the town’s police force give their time and resources for a charitable cause.

“It’s just really nice to see that our police department is so very involved in the community and show that they’re here to support the community,” Kessler said.

Teghan Simonton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Teghan at 724-226-4680,