An annual tradition of providing Thanksgiving meals to first responders throughout Indiana County started four years ago for the family of Angela McMasters, of Shelocta.
“When my daughter Makenna was in first grade, she wanted to do something for homeless families, so we got connected with Family Promise,” McMasters said. “After taking blankets and teddy bears to the kids in the program, Makenna said, ‘I just feel like my whole body is smiling!’”
Angela and husband Jeremy wanted to expand on their daughter’s act of kindness, so they decided to begin preparing and delivering turkey dinners to area ambulance services so the crews could have a homemade meal while manning the stations. They have since added police departments and the county 911 Emergency Management facility.
“I felt like it was one of the ways we could teach our kids that we are blessed to be with our family at Thanksgiving, but there are people who don’t get to do that because of the job they do,” McMasters said.
Currently there are 25 members of the McMasters family, including parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins, who put the meals together, and all pay for the various side dishes, desserts and 75 pounds of turkey that are delivered. This year they prepared 38 meals for nine locations.
“Everybody brings a piece of the meal to our house, and we set up shop in the kitchen and have an assembly line and just put the meals together, then we start shipping people out as we get them done,” she said. “It gets a little crazy at times but we have a lot of fun.”
The McMasters’ children — Makenna, 11; Brennan, 9; Declan, 6; and Finley, 3 — also assist as they are able. “Makenna writes thank-you notes,” McMasters said, “and the younger ones help with the packaging and making sure everyone has their water and utensils.”
As the meals are completed, the family members pair up to deliver the food, starting with stations the furthest from the house, and the children take turns going with them.
Philip Burns, an emergency medical technician with the Citizens’ Ambulance station along Route 422 in White Township, said the staff at their station deeply appreciated the homemade Thanksgiving dinner they received.
“Even though we have cooking equipment at the station, when we’re running around on calls it’s a huge headache to think about preparing a turkey,” Burns said. “For the McMasters to donate our meal is phenomenally beneficial to us.”
The four McMasters children helped with the delivery to the Citizens’ Ambulance station where Burns works. “They gave us a thank-you card with a turkey Makenna drew on the front, and it said, ‘Dear Paramedics, You are kind, considerate and caring. You deserve to be thanked for the work you do. You risk your lives every day to keep us safe, so you should be proud about that, because we are. Here’s a little something to thank you for your work.’”
“All of the food was really good and the note was so heartfelt,” Burns said. “We were all very grateful.”
“I feel like our kids emulate what we do as adults, and one kind act can ripple to other small acts of kindness,” McMasters said. “With so much violence and natural disasters that are happening, there are still little things we can do to make this a pretty good world to live in.”