United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania (UNC) is once again partnering with the Upper Valley Project Hope Committee to provide Carbondale families in need with all of the trimmings for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Families with children in the household are eligible for the program.

Each food basket (which is actually a box) is generously filled with enough food to feed a family of four for two days. Items in each Thanksgiving box include a 12-14 lb. turkey,jellied cranberry sauce, Macintosh apples, a bag of carrots, celery, yams,10 lbs. of white potatoes, bread stuffing cubes, a loaf of Strohmans bread, anda pumpkin pie.

For 38 years, a group of dedicated volunteers from Carbondale, the Upper Valley Project Hope Committee, have partnered with UNC to provide baskets of food to Carbondale area families in need for the Thanksgiving holiday. Eligible recipients are families from Forest City and southward down the valley up to and includingArchbald. People residing south of those communities who would like to be food box recipients are served out of Scranton.

According to Chip Calabro, who has been a member of the Upper Valley Project Hope Committee since its inception 38 years ago, the program is supported entirely through donations from individuals and business and industry. The food boxes cost the program about $37.00 each, and with between 275 and 300 families served each year, the cost of the program can easily top $10,000. “Every dime received goes directly to the program. There are noadministrative costs and no one on the committee receives any money,” stated Mr. Calabro.

The founder of the Carbondale-based committee was one of NEPA’s most respected and beloved citizens, the late Sr. Adrian Barrett, I.H.M. “The Upper Valley Project Hope Program was started in 1980 by Sr. Adrian Barrett, who had asked the general manager of Cross Manufacturing Co. inCarbondale to help her get the program going. At the time, I was employedthere and was asked if I would run the program, and it has continuedfor 38 years. The first year we served 35 families,” explained Mr. Calabro.

When the program began, several area businessmen were involved, but for the past ten years or so the Upper Valley Project Hope Committee has consisted of Michael Hanley, Mary Carol Donahoe, and Lisa Durkin (all of UNC), Sr. Jane Connolly, I.H.M., and Mr. Calabro. “United Neighborhood Centers is the main body behind the program and we could not exist without them. They handle mailings, publicity, registration, and other factors, but it all comes together every year. There are no officers on the committee; we each do our own thing and it seems to work,” said Mr. Calabro.

He added that the committee’s main concern is raising the funds to pay for the food boxes. “In past years, there were occasions when we did not raise enough money and we were forced to borrow money from local businessmen until we could pay off the food vendors. Fortunately, the people in the area are very generous and the last few years have been great. We have been able to pay for the food and still have a couple of bucks in the bank for next year,” Mr. Calabro remarked.

Last year, the Thanksgiving Food Basket Program served 275 Carbondale and Upper Valley families. Each family who receives a box is registered through UNC, so the Committee usually knows how many people they will have to be prepared for during the distribution of the food. “If by some chance there are more needy than the number of boxes we have, we will not turn any families away. We then guide them to other services such as Catholic Social Services, various church programs, and the like,” said Mr. Calabro.

To register for a Thanksgiving food box, bring ID and proof of income (such as Access cards, unemployment records, current pay stubs, social security letter, etc.) and a form of documentation for each family member in the household (such as Access cards, birth certificates, or social security cards) to the St. Rose Church Family Center on one of the following dates: Monday, November 15 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Family Center is located in the basement of the church at 4 N. Church St., Carbondale.

Donations to support the program are always welcome and can be mailed to the Upper Valley Project Hope Committee at PO Box 601, Carbondale, PA 18407. For more information please call 570-346-0759 or visit www.uncnepa.org.