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Gobble! Gobble!

by Brooks Bratten / Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s not uncommon to hear Penguins legendary broadcaster Mike Lange exclaim that “the turkey is on the table.” That will be the case for 100 local families this Thanksgiving, thanks in part to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Held in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, the Penguins took part in the 6th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Distribution at the Oak Hill Pantry in Pittsburgh’s Hill District Friday afternoon. Each family received a frozen turkey and a variety of vegetables for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

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The recipients of the food are especially grateful. For Vernon Williamson of the Hill District, the event means that he and his family will be able to have a Thanksgiving to remember.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Williamson said. “It means so much to me because I can share with other people like they’re sharing with me today. The Penguins have been a part of the community and now I think they’re doing some great things. I’m grateful to be one of the members receiving this stuff.”

A number of representatives from the Penguins organization were on hand to dish out the fixings, including head coach Dan Bylsma and his wife, Mary Beth, president and CEO David Morehouse, strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, head athletic trainer Chris Stewart and assistant equipment manager Danny Kroll. Six members of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite Squirt Minor hockey team also joined in, along with their head coach and former Wheeling Nailers defenseman, Cliff Loya.

“We’re so grateful to the Penguins to make this happen,” director of communications for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Iris Valanti said. “Our families really need the help and it’s a busy time of year for the food bank. Need is up this time of year as always because of the holidays and the winter coming on, so this is a really great thing.”

“It’s a selfish thing you get out of giving back, you feel good personally, but I think it’s just a good thing for anyone to do,” Morehouse said. “It’s a great thing for the Penguins organization to do, and it’s something that from our ownership on down, our players, our coaches, our front office staff, and even extended into the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey program, everyone has a desire to do it. There’s a need, so we’ll continue to do it. This is one good example at Thanksgiving of making that happen.”

Bylsma is accustomed to carving the bird at his own table on Thanksgiving, but passing out the turkey alongside some younger hockey players to those that are less fortunate was something that the head coach was pleased to take part in.

“I really enjoyed having the young Penguins Elite team here today and giving,” Bylsma said. “Seeing those kids being involved and giving to people in need and sharing that Thanksgiving dinner is really rewarding.”

Morehouse believes it is important not only for the adults to be involved, but for the younger generations to get out and help make a difference in the community.

“Its important for kids to learn a lesson early that part of life is giving back to the community and giving back to others,” Morehouse said. “There’s no better holiday to make that example than Thanksgiving. It’s a good lesson for them.”

For Bylsma, an event like this really puts things in perspective at the holidays, and being able to help provide something to members of the community is a rewarding experience.

“I think you forget quickly about other things when you meet people and are in this situation when you’re giving to people,” Bylsma said. “The words ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ and ‘be thankful’ have a different meaning when you’re here today giving out turkeys to the people in the community.

“To be able to give here and give back to the community is as rewarding as anything else we do.”

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