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Turkey Time!

by Tom Mast / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The sound of a Max Talbot “gobble, gobble” can only mean one thing. Thanksgiving is drawing near, and it was time for the Penguins to give back to the Hill District community.

Talbot, along with Jordan Staal and Eric Godard paid a visit to the Bedford Dwellings Hope Center and distributed turkeys and other fixings for the third year in a row on Friday afternoon.

The players handed out enough food to feed 100 families this Thanksgiving.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s one of the most wonderful things that’s going on in our community,” Effie Williams, a Bedford Dwelling resident, said. “We’ve never had any other team or anyone else support us like this.

“I am so happy. Look at us. Look at the people in there. This helps. Not only a happy occasion, but it’s a help.”

Staal took the role of bagging and handing out the turkeys. Goddard passed out fruit and Talbot was in charge of milk and crackers.

“They do give back,” Williams said. “It’s a wonderful thing for all of our communities. Whatever they do is wonderful. We’re behind them 100 percent.”

I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s one of the most wonderful things that’s going on in our community. We’ve never had any other team or anyone else support us like this. - Effie Williams
Iris Valanti, the Director of Communications for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, took the time to thank both the Penguins and their fans for the support.

“This is a great thing. This is the third year in a row they’ve done it,” Valant said. “The Penguins fans had the Penguins’ food drive (Thursday) night at the arena. They raised more than $3,000. So they’re partially responsible for making this possible.

“Thanks to the fans. And thanks to the players for donating their time and coming up. Every year they make the residents happy.”

One Bedford Dwellings resident, Darel Hinton, was especially grateful.

“This is very much appreciated,” Hinton said. “Me and my wife are both out of jobs right now. We’re fighting to stay alive.

“This is much appreciated, to come down here and get a free turkey and the fruit and stuff. I have a young son, too. It really helps out a lot.”

The players, along with dozens of volunteers, were certainly in the giving mood Friday. Everyone was smiling and laughing.

“I’ve been practicing my gobble, gobble,” Talbot said. “On the bus on the way here.”

Talbot put his “gobble, gobble” skills toward a good cause, using the sound to help put the crowd in the holiday spirit.

“It’s a great event and it puts a smile on your face,” Talbot said. “You definitely feel special to have the chance to do this. It’s nice being here.

“Every time you have the chance, it’s nice getting out there and helping people. It’s Thanksgiving. It’s really great for the team to have a chance to do this.”

“It goes hand in hand with this time of year,” Valanti said. “The food bank, we’re serving about 1,000 to 1,500 new families every month.

“With this recession dragging on in terms of unemployment and home foreclosures and things, people don’t have much flexibility in their budget. They’re getting kicked over the side. We really need the extra food this time of year. We’re grateful to the fans and the Penguins for helping us out every year.”

Godard was quick to point out that there was a lot more work than just the hours the three players put in.

“There’s a ton of people behind the scenes doing all the work, getting all the food and setting all this stuff up,” Godard said. “They make it easier for us to show up and spend some time here. It’s good. The real thanks goes to the people behind the scenes.

“It’s good. It’s always nice to come up and help. Everyone wants to have a good a Thanksgiving. I feel good that they invited us to help out.”

It was Staal’s first time handing out turkeys, and the experience made him feel good.

“It’s something that a lot of the guys have done before. This is my first time,” Staal said. “They always said it was really rewarding. It was nice to get out in the community and give back.”

Talbot was thankful just to be able to lend a hand in his local community.

“It feels great,” Talbot said. “They need it. You give them a turkey or some milk and they’re smiling back at you and you know they appreciate it a lot.

“It’s a great feeling, just to have a chance to do this.”

Sam Kasan contributed to this report.

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