By Elizabeth Perry
Scott Township resident Stephanie Long and her family have been providing individual Thanksgiving meals to needy families for the past seven years.
Inspired by their philanthropy, their friends the Stankos, have begun doing the same thing.
“Once we did it the feeling was so awesome we’ve been doing it ever since,” Long said.
They provide all the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal – turkey, vegetables, rolls and even butter – so the family has all the ingredients for dinner.
Her husband, Mike Long, daughter Molly, 20, son Michael, 18, and Eva, 16, all take part in the tradition.
“My husband grew up in McKees Rocks. It’s been nice to give back to the community,” Long said.
The Longs aren’t particularly religious.
They decided to start doing this because neither of them grew up well off.
“We both struggled growing up, not that we went without food, but now we don’t struggle, our kids don’t struggle, because we are a little bit more fortunate right now,” Long said, which is why they decided to help out in this way.
The first year they started the tradition, they helped a grandmother who was both dealing with an illness and taking care of her grandson.
Castle Shannon resident, Linda Stanko, said a few years ago, she and her husband Denny Stanko decided to follow the example of their friends and provide a meal for people experiencing a tough time financially, too. Denny grew up with Mike in McKees Rocks.
“Honestly, our friends have done this for years,” Stanko said.
Stanko said she and her oldest son, Dennis, 18, have volunteered for years with Shepherd Wellness, an organization that provides resources for people living with HIV. She and Denny wanted to set a good example for their other children, Kade, 16, and Meyer, 12, as well.
Last year her youngest helped deliver the meal and brought a small toy for one of the children in the family.
The child was so thrilled with the gift, something Meyer wouldn’t have thought twice about, that he insisted they buy Christmas gifts for the family, too. Stanko was proud the moment could spark empathy and understanding in her son.
“It gives the kids an eye opener,” Long said.
The families try to connect with people in need of a little relief over the holidays, through word of mouth or via Facebook. Stanko said they try to be discreet about the delivery of the food and toys.
“It’s not about anything except helping,” Stanko said.