Thanksgiving is a way of life for Deacon Tim Gibbo.

That’s “thanksgiving” with a lower-case t — he’s thankful for life, faith and family — but also with a capital T — he and his wife, Tina, spearhead a massive Thanksgiving Day Outreach that provides about 800 meals, mostly to people in Chittenden County.

This year will be the 25th year of the outreach that began as a meal served in the St. Mark Family Center in Burlington but has grown to a meal delivered to senior housing, new American families, a shelter and to anyone who might not otherwise have a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

With a crew of 200-300 volunteers who do everything from collecting donations, to cooking the meal to delivery and clean-up, the Gibbos collaborate with the North Avenue Alliance Church in Burlington to provide the outreach. (The church offers a sit-down dinner there.)

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, members of the Gibbo Family begin to get the food ready at the family center. This year that includes 65 turkeys.

Also on the menu will be stuffing, corn or beans, rolls/bread, mashed potatoes, carrot and celery sticks, cranberry sauce, pickles and dessert.

Food for the Thanksgiving Day Outreach from St. Mark’s is donated by parishioners and businesses, and volunteers come from the parish and the wider community. Groups have gotten involved from the Coast Guard, the Burlington High School National Honor Society, Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, service agencies and other churches.

“It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit works,” said Deacon Gibbo of St. Mark Parish.

Every dinner is delivered hot and with a homemade card from local children and adults.

Deacon Gibbo is a retired electrician; his wife provides day care for two of their five grandchildren.

The parents of three, the Gibbos began a Thanksgiving dinner for people in need when their children were in the religious education program at St. Mark’s because they wanted to provide an outreach opportunity.

“This is a great outreach every year,” said Father Dallas St. Peter, pastor of St. Mark’s, who will help deliver meals on Thanksgiving. “It’s nice to go out and meet people, and they are very grateful.”

He and Deacon Gibbo see the meal delivery as a strong witness to faith. “This is a great way to show love of God by showing love for our neighbor,” Father St. Peter said. “It’s a great way of evangelizing.”

Once the meals are prepared, volunteers pack them in assembly-line fashion to get them ready for delivery. Deacon Gibbo oversees the placement of the food so it is “pretty,” even strategically adding parsley.

Meals are scheduled to be delivered between noon and 1 p.m. with 105 deliveries to be made to households that have requested the meal.

The Gibbo Family had their Thanksgiving earlier in November, but members who are able will stay at St. Mark’s to eat with other volunteers once all the delivered meals are on their way.

Tyler Sessions, the Gibbos’ daughter, is used to spending Thanksgiving with the outreach program and now brings her two sons to help. “They’re learning that it is important to help other people. We have a lot to be thankful for,” she said.

Extra turkeys are used in parish Christmas baskets or for emergency needs.

“When we do what God wants us to do, we experience the joy of living the Gospel,” Father St. Peter said.

It’s a joy for which Deacon Gibbo is truly thankful.

 

 

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