Prepping for meals

Local first responders and their children begin preparations to start cooking Thanksgiving meals for the Hands for Heroes outreach. Mike McConnell and Zach Ruth prepare potatoes, while Holly Peranio and daughter Autumn clean and unload many pounds of potatoes with McConnell’s children, Katie and David.

Community members, businesses and agencies are working cooperatively this week to prepare anywhere from 150 to 250 “home-cooking” style Thanksgiving meals for individuals in the Bradford area who are struggling, shut in, alone or simply unable to be with family for the holiday.

The partnership that makes up the “Hands of Heroes” is comprehensive in nature, including individuals, first responders, Bradford area businesses, agencies, charities and churches. Now in their fourth year, this community outreach program was started by a local Emergency Medical Technician/nurse who saw a need for the charity, according to Lieutenant Cathy Mealy, Bradford City Fire Department EMS coordinator and paramedic.

“The local radio station, “The Hero” 100.1 FM and the Bradford City Fire Fighters Local 655 union were invited to join in with her efforts, but this event is not sponsored by our fire union,” explained Mealy. “Instead it has become a great example of many groups working together to make the holiday a bit brighter for people who are alone, struggling or unable to spend it with their families.”

St. Bernard Catholic Church donates their kitchen area each year during the week of Thanksgiving to allow volunteers the much needed room to prepare and package hundreds of meals, while donations from the Blaisdell Foundation and the efforts of the Hero radio station make this outreach possible.

“Our local Meals on Wheels program obtains sign-ups from their members who would like a dinner delivered by our volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. They also loan us their insulated food bags which allow us to keep the meals warm during delivery,” stated Mealy.

Businesses, such as American Refining Group, have donated multiple turkeys. “These wonderful donations make every dollar go even further,” said Mealy.

According to Mealy, most of the “Hands of Heroes” volunteers are members of the McKean County public safety community and their families — including area nurses, police officers, fire fighters (career and volunteer), teachers, church volunteers and others.

“Joe (Doriguzzi) of the Friendship Table has kindly acted as our expert consultant and has been so very helpful since they have extensive experience feeding large groups of people,” explained Mealy.

The main purpose behind “Hands of Heroes” is to reach out to those who are physically unable to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family or friends to make sure they have access to an enjoyable meal. Each delivered meal will contain the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole and other fixings.

“It is just so nice how these organizations work together for the good of the community,” said Stacy Shotts Williams, executive director of the Bradford Hospital Foundation.

The meal delivery schedule mirrors that of the Meals on Wheels program, and will run from 11 a.m. until all meals have been delivered, which will be approximately around 2 p.m.

“We sincerely appreciate the support we have received from our community and enjoy the opportunity to pay the kindness forward. We look forward to continuing this outreach in the years to come,” expressed Mealy.

For more information or questions about the “Hands of Heroes” outreach email

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