Stuffed With Love

This Thanksgiving, North Allegheny Interact ventured into Pittsburgh to serve up some holiday joy.

Interact+members+Bruno+Martin%2C+Ashley+Shim%2C+and+Summer+Ji+joined+volunteers+from+around+the+area+at+St.+Marys+Holy+Assumption+Orthodox+Church+last+Wednesday+evening+to+prepare+meals+for+families+in+need.

Ruby Morris

Interact members Bruno Martin, Ashley Shim, and Summer Ji joined volunteers from around the area at St. Mary’s Holy Assumption Orthodox Church last Wednesday evening to prepare meals for families in need.

Sierra O'Neil, Staff Writer

Nearly 22.7 million Americans were experiencing food insecurity leading up to the 2021 holiday season. This year, with the lingering effects of COVID-19 and inflation plaguing the nation, Thanksgiving was not a guarantee. In fact, thousands of Pittsburgh residents rely on food banks to achieve some form of normalcy this holiday season. 

Last Wednesday evening, the North Allegheny chapter of Interact jumped in and volunteered at St. Mary’s Holy Assumption Orthodox Church on Pittsburgh’s Southside, preparing thousands of Thanksgiving meals for people in need throughout the area. 

The annual “Stuffed with Love” event at St. Mary’s is among NASH GOAL teacher and Interact sponsor Mrs. Janellen Lombardi’s favorites.

“It is heart-warming to see so many people working together to provide warm, hearty meals to people in need,” Lombardi said.

The Stuffed With Love tradition offers more than cooking and packaging food for its volunteers. The project is ultimately about offering fulfillment.

“Our work tonight will hopefully give people the chance to enjoy classic Thanksgiving foods,” NASH Interact President Sophie Azar said.

For many of the recipients, Wednesday evening’s preparations were the closest thing to a home-cooked meal that they would receive this Thanksgiving. 

“I appreciate how much I have and how much I am able to give back,” senior Interact member Libby Herne said.

The experience not only amplified volunteers’ gratitude but also highlighted how a small act of kindness can change one’s entire view. 

“It was really interesting to witness a physical example of how much need for food there is in our city,” Azar said.

It showed me how taking some time out of my day to help others can be fulfilling.”

— Jess Golden, NASH senior

With access to warm meals being so vast in the Wexford area, the chance to step out of one’s comfort zone and prepare meals for the less fortunate might have seemed daunting at first.  But it took little time for the Interact volunteers to harness the Thanksgiving spirit. 

“It’s a wonderful, community-building event where participants share laughter and stories as we work around the table to package bread, desserts, cranberry sauce, and Thanksgiving entrees,” Lombardi said. 

NASH senior Jess Golden appreciated the community -building aspect of Stuffed with Love.

“I was around other kids from school, but I also met an amazing family who was part of the church where we were volunteering at,” Golden said. “They started the food pantry there and were very enthusiastic about helping their community. It showed me how taking some time out of my day to help others can be fulfilling.”