Cubs Manager Maddon Hosts Annual Thanksmas Dinner

December 17, 2018
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Cubs Manager Maddon Hosts Annual Thanksmas Dinner

HAZLETON — Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon spent Sunday afternoon talking with those who showed up for a Thanksmas meal at the Hazleton One Community Center.

He wished them a Merry Christmas, answered questions and posed for photos.

And once he was done, the Hazleton native autographed a mural in the basement of the center he helped establish.

“Bellisimo! Bellisimo!” Maddon said of the mural, which reflects the array of cultures in the Hazleton area.

Bringing the community together has been Maddon’s vision. He came up with the Thanksmas dinner idea while riding his bicycle and seeing so many homeless people in California. He decided that he’d help the less fortunate if ever he was able, and hosted his first Thanksmas dinner when employed by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Soon after, he brought Thanksmas meals to Hazleton.

Now in its eighth year, the annual event brought hundreds together to break bread and share a free meal. By 2 p.m., around 550 people had been served.

“We usually top out between 450 and 500,” said Bob Curry, the center’s founding president. “It shows how great the needs are in our community. In some ways, it is gratifying that people trust us and believe in what we’re doing.”

The event brought 65 volunteers who helped with everything from food preparation to clean up.

Joe Ferdinand, Hazleton, dished out food.

“We have pierogies, pulled pork, chicken, rice, sausage, meatballs and pasta,” he said.

The dinner choices, said volunteer Carol Baran, reflect the area’s ethnic backgrounds. The pierogies, she noted, are a typical Polish dish and were handmade by parishioners from Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church in Hazleton. Meatballs, sausage and pasta are Italian food favorites, and the pulled pork, chicken and rice are on many Spanish menus.

Several of the students enrolled in the after school program — or other activities at the center — helped paint the mural designed by artist Christina Galbiati, of West Hazleton.

The mural features the quote from Maya Angelou, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

“It represents the blending and sharing of different cultures,” explained Elaine Maddon Curry, the center’s program director.

Youths signed their names on flowers and butterflies bordering the colorful mural.

Two spaces were left blank for Maddon and his wife, Jaye, to sign.

After signing the mural — the center’s first — Galbiati presented the couple with a framed print of the design.

“I’m going to put it up in our house. It’s absolutely beautiful,” Maddon said.

On Friday, Maddon brought Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath to the Pines Eatery to help raise money for the community center.

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