Kesher Israel Congregation serves up extra helping of support to Harrisburg first-responders on Thanksgiving

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — We’ve all heard the saying, “the quickest way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.”

Kesher Israel Congregation is making sure that heart is also thankful through a nearly 20-year tradition of serving first responders Thanksgiving meals.

“They don’t expect a ‘thank you,’ but we ought to give them that thank you anyway,” said Ann Rosenberg, Kesher Israel Congregation volunteer.

Thankful hearts and full bellies — a match made in heaven. The congregation started the tradition two months after 9/11 as a way to show their appreciation for first-responders.

“It is good to know that the public does recognize that we are away from our families even though we’re still serving them,” said Battalion Chief Floyd Wise, Harrisburg Fire Department.

They had to serve it up differently this year. Instead of a buffet style, meals were prepackaged.

“Its got everything that should be heated up in there. So, they can heat it in the microwave and still enjoy their meal,” Rosenberg said.

They didn’t just feed firefighters. The firehouse served as a base for EMS and police officers to also grab meals.

“Firefighters don’t go in it for the glory. EMS staff don’t go into it because they love blood and guts. They go into it because they want to help people,” Rosenberg said.

Although, their day was off to a quiet start.

“We’ve only had one small kitchen related issue that was related to making a Thanksgiving turkey, but that’s been it. Was the turkey salvageable? Yes. Maybe a little crispy, but salvageable,” Chief Wise said.

The holiday was far beyond salvageable, thanks to a congregation who served up an extra helping of love.

“We just get a reminder on days like today that people haven’t forgotten about us. We are certainly here serving one way or another,” Chief Wise said.

“People take for granted that when they have an emergency, someone is going to bail us out,” Rosenberg said.

Earlier this year, Kesher Israel was the victim of a hate crime after two swastikas were spray-painted on the side of their building, but congregation members said they still have a thankful heart and appreciate how the community rallied around them.

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