One of Pittsburgh’s newest Thanksgiving traditions found a way to continue during the pandemic, even though thousands of people were unable to gather in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center the day after Thanksgiving to package one million meals for the hungry in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Thanks to a pilot program, 10 churches will host events on weekends in November to each pack 100,000 meals. Sign-ups for volunteers – which are limited due to social distancing – are available at www.AmenToAction.org.
“Amen to Action is a mission that Jesus gave us – to act together as sisters and brothers of Jesus as we seek to serve the poor in His name,” said Bishop David Zubik. “What a privilege it is for all who participate in this special initiative to reflect the mercy of Jesus and our love for one another. Participating in Amen to Action is a God-given opportunity to do so.”
Amen to Action is an outgrowth of a series of conversations that Bishop Zubik hosted with ecumenical leader Reid Carpenter, bringing together diverse Christian leaders ranging from Catholic and Baptist to Eastern Orthodox to Pentecostal.
For three years starting in 2017, thousands of volunteers from throughout the region packed the convention center to put together non-perishable meals for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Then COVID struck.
With large gatherings out, Cindy Deschaine, pastoral associate for the Beaver Valley parishes of the Great Grouping (Good Samaritan, Ambridge; St. John the Baptist, Baden; Our Lady of Peace, Conway; Saints John & Paul in Franklin Park), decided to try smaller, socially-distanced event.
“I didn’t realize what I was getting into,” said Deschaine, who is a coach for this year’s host churches. But the 2020 event, held in the former Quigley Catholic High School, has become a national model for socially distanced food packaging. Volunteers repackage bulk-dried ingredients—such as beans, oatmeal and pasta—into individual servings.
Because Amen to Action is ecumenical, Deschaine reached out to churches of all traditions. She found people eager to volunteer.
“This was everyone’s chance to get out and do something for the greater good. It was a lot of fun,” she said.
Sign-ups for November are filling rapidly.
“The response to Amen to Action by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has been inspiring,” said Lee Kricher, president of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, which sponsors Amen to Action. As of mid-September, “our three Catholic sites have the highest number of volunteer sign-ups.”
The goal is 225 sign-ups at each. As of last week, Saint Catherine Laboure Parish’s Saint Joan of Arc Church in South Park topped the list with 163.
At North Catholic High School in Cranberry, principal Michael Palcsey expected students to use it for service hours, so that “we will fill the quota pretty quick.”
At Saint Jude Parish in the East End, where the Sacred Heart Activities Center will host the closing event on the day after Thanksgiving, sign-ups are nearly full. Its predecessor parishes, Sacred Heart and Saint Raphael, have been enthusiastic participants since they first sent charter buses to the event in 2018.
Amen to Action embodies key points from a mission statement that the parish is crafting on service to the poor and marginalized, said Father Joe Mele, the pastor.
“The good people of Saint Jude are extremely generous,” he said. “They want their mission to be more than a plaque that hangs on the wall. Amen is one of the ways that they live that out. It’s also an event that brings us together as a community, and brings us together with our neighbors from other churches.”
TO REGISTER: www.AmenToAction.org
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 6 (8:30 AM – 12:00 PM) Crossroads Church (PGH West) | 1000 Crossroads Drive, Oakdale, PA 15071 (SOUTH)
Christ Church at Grove Farm | 249 Duff Road, Sewickley, PA 15143 (NORTH/WEST)
North Catholic High School | 1617 Route 228, Cranberry Township, PA 16066 (NORTH)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13 (8:30 AM – 12:00 PM) Mt Ararat Baptist Church | 271 Paulson Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (CENTRAL/EAST)
Orchard Hill Church | 2551 Brandt School Rd., Wexford, PA 15090 (NORTH)
Amplify Church | 9400 Saltsburg Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15239 (EAST)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20 (8:30 AM – 12:00 PM) St. Joan of Arc Church | 6470 Library Rd., South Park, PA 15129 (SOUTH)
First Presbyterian Church Beaver | 252 College Avenue, Beaver, PA 15009 (WEST)
Allison Park Church | 2326 Duncan Ave., Allison Park, PA 15101 (NORTH)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26 (8:30 AM – 12:00 PM) Sacred Heart Church | 310 Shady Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (CENTRAL/EAST)