In 2006, after the devastating loss of her husband to lung cancer, Laura Dendy and her then 10-year-old daughter decided to do something to honor the memory of her husband, Vernon Dendy, all while reaching back into the community to help uplift those who are less fortunate, which was a true passion of Vernon Dendy. So Dendy, along with the help of her family, began to offer Thanksgiving dinners at Wesley Center AMEZ Church’s fellowship hall for senior citizens and men from the Centre Avenue YMCA who were either lonely or down on their luck.
After a while, Dendy realized that she could touch even more people. So she opened it up to anyone in the Hill District or surrounding communities who may need to know that, for even just one day, someone cares about them. Now, seven years later, the annual event that has grown to serve more than 150 people is still thriving and spreading a message of thankfulness to all.
“When he died it was a terrible, devastating blow to me and my daughter. So I just came up with the idea (to serve Thanksgiving Day dinner) because that was always something he (Vernon) wanted to do. It is a way of giving back to the community and people less fortunate,” said Dendy. “My daughter thought it was a good idea because that was a way of honoring her father. She always said, ‘it’s not like I can go and buy a shirt or tie.’”
Like Dendy, many residents, churches, organizations and celebrities in the Pittsburgh area have or will be reaching out into the community to make Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Day, one where no one in need is left alone or without a meal.
According to the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center website, in Pennsylvania, approximately 1.6 million people struggle to put food on their tables each year. In Allegheny County, according to both the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank websites, around 14 percent of the county’s population faces food insecurity, which is when individuals do not have consistent access to adequate food. Reasons can be due to lack of funding or lack of resources. The U.S. Census Bureau website says that of the 2012 estimated Allegheny County population of 1,229,338, around 12.4 percent of the population fall below the poverty level.
Lisa Scales, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, said that they have seen an increase in the number of individuals seeking assistance. She said as of September, on average, the Food Bank serves 1500 new households every month and that with the recent cuts to SNAP benefits that began Nov. 1, their concern is that not only will the households they currently serve need greater assistance, but that their food pantries will now see additional households needing assistance.
“It’s Thanksgiving for me every day. I am so blessed. So to just have one day that I could make someone else happy and let them know that they’re cared about is what it’s about,“ said Dendy. “Nobody should be alone for Thanksgiving, out of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is the best because that’s how we display gratefulness.”