A South Williamsport teenager helped to brighten the holiday for the hungry and shut-ins gathering for Thanksgiving meals at St. Anthony's Center on Willow Street.
Joaquin Gonsalves, 17, spent the days before Thanksgiving delivering notes and messages in his neighbor's mailboxes, asking for any kind of non-perishable food donations he would be delivering to St. Anthony's staff as they prepared their traditional annual free turkey meal.
Gonsalves said he then collected the canned goods and ended up delivering 110 pounds of food. He's been delivering meals to shut-ins for eight years.
South Williamsport teen Joaquin Gonsalves recently collected 110 pounds of food for St. Anthony Center’s annual Thanksgiving meal.
"Every time it's a different experience," he said.
This year was the first Gonsalves organized a food drive asking his neighbors to contribute.
These people are "truly thankful for a delicious meal," he said of the shut-ins and others who pass through the doors at St. Anthony's.
Even more touching were the moments Gonsalves said he shared, finding friendships and listening stories told by those who appreciate the charitable acts.
"It really makes me feel more fortunate," said Gonsalves, who wants to attend college to become a dentist. "It makes me want to get out there and experience it more," he said.
Asked what drives him to want to help those less fortunate, he said, "I like making people happy and doing simple things that takes an hour.
"It's amazing how much it can change somebody's day and make them so happy that they cry, and I have a personality that makes me want to connect with people," he said.
"Some of these people don't have family, which is kind of sad," he said.
Gonsalves said he spoke to a woman at St. Anthony's who cried. "She said, 'I lost my husband and every year this holiday is really hard for me,'" he recalled.
Gonsalves said he met a man this year who could not hear and when he approached had the biggest smile on his face.
Over the years, Gonsalves said he has noticed a greater need for holding food drives and paying more attention to the hungry among the community.
"A lot don't understand we send relief over to other countries and there is so much we can do in our backyard," Gonsalves said, adding he was thankful for the generosity of neighbors who helped make this food drive a success.
Even though he plans to attend college after high school, Gonsalves said he wants to provide this service each year.
"I will continue to do service through Circle K and Lions Club," he said.