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Pens serve Thanksgiving meals at Rainbow Kitchen

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Penguins

"I got the goods. What's everybody thinking?"

Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese emerged from behind the kitchen with a cart filled with desserts, such as chocolate cake, apple pie, cookies and more. He wheeled the cart around to each table, taking orders and serving up "the goods."

Aston-Reese, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Chad Ruhwedel, John Marino and Sam Lafferty were volunteering inside Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead on Tuesday afternoon, serving traditional Thanksgiving meals to residents.

Video: The Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Rainbow Kitchen

"It meant a lot for all of us to come here," Rust said. "The entire meaning of the holiday is to give back and give thanks for what you do have, but also try and help out and put a smile on other people's faces. Especially being an American, it makes it mean a little bit more."

This is the third annual year that Penguins players have served warm meals to residents in Rainbow Kitchen, which was established in 1984 to provide a vital safety net for hungry children, struggling families, low-income elderly, disabled individuals, the homeless and unemployed.

"This is an exciting thing for us here at Rainbow Kitchen and also for the community," said Donna Little, executive director of Rainbow Kitchen. "People even dressed up and they're so excited and appreciative of the fact that you all came. The players are so gracious. They stop and sign autographs, they take pictures, they're very gracious.

"It gives people a lift, and also makes people feel valued."

The Penguins asked their players if they were interested in taking part in the event. Many volunteered to do so, and the team decided that having all American players made the most sense due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

"It says a lot about the kind of players that we have on our team that we asked for volunteers and never, ever have trouble finding them," said Cindy Himes, the Penguins' director of community/alumni relations. "A lot of guys that were here today have done this two, three years. They love giving back to the community."

The Penguins had a system. Guentzel, for the third straight year, took a plate and placed turkey and stuffing on the plate. It was handed to another three-year veteran, Rust, who added green beans and sweet potatoes. Ruhwedel added the gravy and a muffin. Marino and Lafferty were tasked with taking the plates on trays and serving them to the residents at their tables. And, of course, Aston-Reese had the dessert cart.

"The delivery guys were a little bit slow," Rust joked of their assembly line system. "We would have liked to see a little bit more out of them. But Zach was pretty good with the dessert cart."

With everyone fed and happy, the players hung around to chat with the residents, pose for photos and sign autographs.

"In a lot of ways doing social service is really challenging," Little said. "But then there are things that happen like today that make you feel like you've done something that makes a difference in someone's life."

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