By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Father Fernando Hernandez sat on the stage area of the Sacred Heart Parish Center, fully absorbing the touching moment while smiling with satisfaction at the scene in front of him.
“The volunteers are what make this so special, giving Newburgh a sense of Thanksgiving, said Hernandez, who oversees three Catholic Church in Newburgh (Saint Patrick, Saint Francis and Sacred Heart), as he viewed guests enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings, interacting with one another and just simply enjoying the holiday ambience.
“It’s always good to not be stuck in our own lives and reach out to others, especially those we sometimes tend to forget about in Newburgh.”
Pete Vesuvio, owner of Vesuvio’s Ristorante, and Ben Papaleo, owner of Papaleo’s Auto Body, both businesses in the City of Newburgh, have been displaying those selfless actions for the past six years, sponsoring the Annual Newburgh Community Thanksgiving Feast, where guests are not only treated to a delicious meal, complete with; turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn bread, and an assortment of desserts and beverages, but also a table of winter attire- laden with socks and mittens-and volunteers offering plenty of smiles, joy and gestures of giving and love. The popular event was all inspired from the heart.
“We started this event because we wanted to give back to the community; last year we gave out close to 300 meals,” said Vesuvio, who also added that meals are delivered to hotels, warming stations, and shelters in the area. “The people really love it and are just super appreciative, always letting us know.”
One of those grateful individuals could be seen expressing that deep appreciation Thursday, as she raved about the delicious meal and the comfort she felt being inside the Parish Center, surrounded by camaraderie and a sense of peace.
“Some of us have dangerous family,” said Kathleen from the City of Newburgh. “I just really appreciate the service here; it’s bright, clean and very respectful,”
It’s that very ambience- spirit that keeps a large contingent of devoted volunteers returning each year, starting their holiday on a positive, giving note.
“My family comes here every year to help out, so I wanted to do the same,” said 10th grader Gianna Walker, who was lending a hand distributing desserts for a few hours for the second year. “I really like helping people in need; it’s such a good feeling.”