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Identity & Community
Western Pennsylvania has a strong tradition of neighborhood, personal and community commitment. Our pride in pulling together goes far beyond supporting our deep-rooted sports teams. 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference honors the individuals that are making a difference in people's lives on the ground level and reminding us we are all truly a part of each other's lives.This special series, supported by UPMC, will highlight, honor and celebrate Western Pennsylvanians who are unsung heroes daring to make a difference to others in our community.00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770c8000000000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770ca000000000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770cc000090.5 WESA PA listening area counties:Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland, Butler, Armstrong, Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Fayette, Indiana00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770cd0000This project is made possible by a generous contribution from UPMC.

Running Partners Turn Small Acts Of Kindness Into Charity Mission

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Rebekah Zook
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90.5 WESA

Debbie Thackrah said she never expected her initiative, Feeding the Spirit, to be as large as it is today, considering its humble beginnings in 2011.

“My running partner and I ... started running with five dollar bills to slip under their knapsacks so it would be there when they woke up,” she said. Thackrah, on her morning runs, was seeing an ever-growing homeless population in her town of Greensburg, spend the night in open, public spaces.

“It made me really upset,” she said.

So in 2011, Thackrah became the president and founder of the Feeding the Spirit crew, housed in the Otterbein United Methodist Church basement. Her goal was to provide a hot meal and a safe place for the homeless of Greensburg.

What she didn’t know, was how much more help the community needed, and how much the rest of Greensburg wanted to help.

Every Thursday night, Thackrah and a faithful league of some 20 volunteers serve the homeless of their community in just about every way possible. Thackrah greets people walking through the door by name, while replacing a child’s silverware and re-filling mugs of coffee at long, community-style dinner tables.

Before dinner is served -- on this particular night by a group of Seton Hill University students -- organizers tell jokes to get people into positive mindsets.

“We believe in laughter, most of all,” Thackrah said. A short time later, she secured hotel rooms for several of the guests in attendance and purchase a bus pass for one of their regulars who can no longer afford to travel to the church each week.

“Despite what you read and see on TV about what a cruel world this is ... that’s not the world I live in," she said. "I look out there and I see volunteers come with open arms. I really think so many more people would do that if you gave them a way to do that.”

In addition to a hot meal each Thursday, donated by a local restaurant or caterer, Feeding the Spirit also provides a table of food and health products available for those who may need them.