Making Thanksgiving brighter for those in need

Above, volunteers prepare carry-out meals Thursday at St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill. Below, Dave Lieb, left, and Martha Went dish out Thanksgiving meals at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Fort Mill on Thursday.
Above, volunteers prepare carry-out meals Thursday at St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill. Below, Dave Lieb, left, and Martha Went dish out Thanksgiving meals at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Fort Mill on Thursday.

Around York County on Thursday, as families gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving, others took the opportunity to give strangers a reason to be thankful. Many local churches held Thanksgiving services and dinners to make sure those in need had a happy holiday. Here's a look at two of the events:

Sisters Becky and Amanda Standford climbed in a van with three generations of their family Thursday and headed to Rock Hill's St. Anne Catholic Church to help pack and load vehicles with Thanksgiving dinners.

Two hundred dinners went to the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen -- an annual tradition -- while another 400 were delivered to those normally served by Meals & Wheels.

"This is just a way to give back," said Ray Moore, a 25-year seasoned volunteer. "I've got plenty. Why not take a part of my day to give to those who don't have so they can have plenty for a day?"

Nearby, volunteers chatted as they waited in clusters for their bags of ready-to-go meals.

"Pack them in as quick as you can," organizer Mindy Cawley called out during the annual event that dates back more than 30 years.

Marc and Susie Kirsch packed more than 350 plates by 11:25 a.m. Volunteering for the first time, the Rock Hill couple said they'd rather be helping at the church than sitting at home.

"One person can make a difference," Susie Kirsch said as she and her husband piled plates in brown bags and handed them off to volunteers.

One bag apiece went to the Standford sisters, who carted the bags of four or five plates to waiting cars. Their mother, aunt and grandmother packed plates -- all in the name of helping those in need.

"It brought my family together," said Becky Standford, an 18-year-old freshman at Columbia College and first-time volunteer. "We all came out to help. It brings a sense of joy and happiness in that I helped somebody."

The sisters forfeited extra sleep time to turn out, said 15-year-old Amanda Standford, a 10th-grader at Fort Mill High School.

"It felt like something good to do," she said.

The girls' young-looking grandmother agreed.

"I wanted to show my granddaughters about giving to others," Anna Brandl-Kleine said as the group prepared to leave. "It was the right thing to do."

For Amanda McGoye, a student at Rawlinson Road Middle School, helping others was a rewarding experience.

"By helping people, I'm making a difference," she said. "No matter how young or old you are, you can help. I'm just glad I can help."

Tragedies won't deter volunteer

FORT MILL -- Dana Zamalloa almost lost half her family this year.

But the near tragedies didn't stop the Fort Mill woman from helping people on Thursday as they ate Thanksgiving dinner at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church.

The feast, marked by plenty of conversation and warm food, was a first for the Fort Mill church. Steps inside its doors, volunteers piled about 120 plates with the traditional feast for home deliveries and on-site meals.

"There are always people who are sitting alone," organizer Tricia Kuhlkin said. "We can feed the body, but their souls need to be fed. That loneliness is just as bad as being hungry."

Zamalloa smiled as she looked across the room. Then, she spotted her husband, Jude, and children, Daniel, 12, and Skylar, 7, and her smile broadened.

Her smile gave no indication of the two near-tragedies she endured this year. In February, Daniel was riding a dirt bike when he crashed into a tree, resulting in multiple facial fractures and a cracked liver, which caused internal bleeding. He has since recovered.

Then six months later, she almost lost her husband.

"My husband was accidentally shot in the head," Zamalloa, 33, said about the incident that happened in California. "My heart stopped."

Jude Zamalloa spent several months recuperating from his brain injury, and he returned to his Fort Mill home about three weeks ago.

"I got another chance," he said. "I'm thankful for being here."

For Dana Zamalloa, the events put things in perspective.

"The big things aren't important anymore," she said as tears pooled in her eyes and ran down her cheeks. "It's the small things -- the hugs and the words.

"When you get stripped down to the bare bone of life, it shows you what's important. It's the people, not the money or the houses.," she added. "I thank God every day. Now, I have a strong drive to do more for others."

Serving others is the true meaning of Thanksgiving, said Nevil Davy of Fort Mill, who delivered meals to several people.

"You have to reach out," he said. "If you reach out effectively, the world is better for all."