Friends for Food will remain drive-thru this year

The annual Friends for Food distribution that helps area families in need prepare their Thanksgiving dinners will be a drive-thru event again this year.

The 32nd annual distribution day is scheduled Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Rocky Grove fire hall, beginning at 8 a.m.

This will be the third year of the drive-thru method, which began in 2020 while the pandemic was raging.

The Friends for Food campaign is a joint effort between Community Services of Venango County and The Derrick and The News-Herald.

And even though Community Services still isn’t reverting back to business as usual this year, the drive-thru method has been well received by guests, according to Community Services fiscal director Brian Reagle.

“Most people have been thankful for this transition to the drive thru,” Reagle said. “We’ve received almost exclusively positive feedback. I don’t know of any negative feedback of the three years we’ve been doing this.”

Reagle also said the drive-thru approach is quicker and safer.

He added that not as many volunteers are needed with a drive-thru. Last year, Community Services limited its volunteers to 100, but even then there were about 30 or 40 people who didn’t have anything to do.

This year, the number of volunteers has been reduced to 60, and those who want to volunteer can register by dialing #211.

Reagle said volunteers need to be at the fire hall by 7 a.m. that day.

Other volunteers who aren’t included as part of the 60 will be from the Rocky Grove Volunteer Fire Department and will help conduct traffic.

The building will also be open for volunteers to have restroom use and for coffee.

“UPMC Northwest will have a small delegation of volunteers,” Reagle added. “They support us in this effort and in the health related aspect.”

Reagle said Community Services will increase the value of vouchers to $20 in addition to providing a full turkey to each person who shows up.

The organization pre-purchased 1,000 turkeys, and if the turkeys are all handed out during the distribution, individuals who don’t get a turkey will receive a gift card from a local grocery store to purchase the same turkey.

Reagle said the goal this year is to distribute at least 1,000 bags. More than 1,200 bags were given away last year.

Gavin will be honored

In addition, Community Services will dedicate this year’s Friends for Food effort, and all the campaigns in years to follow, in memory of Mary Jeanne Gavin, the much-loved former executive director of Community Services.

Gavin passed away just hours before last year’s distribution after a brave battle with cancer. In fact, she remained a driving force with last year’s Friends for Food effort even in her last days.

Gavin spent 20 years at Community Services, including the last six and a half years as executive director. She devoted hundreds of hours of her time and energy to Friends for Food through the years.

The campaign has raised more than $15,000 so far this year.

Coupons are included in advertisements being published in the newspaper. Donors can also visit to make a donation.


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