LYNN — Lynn firefighters served up a traditional Thanksgiving meal to more than 300 children who attend the Gregg Neighborhood House on Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly O’Connor, director of Gregg House, an after-school child care agency located on Broad Street, said the Thanksgiving meal program was started by her parents, Kevin and Judy O’Connor, 29 years ago.
“My parents really wanted to make sure all kids got a chance to sit down and enjoy Thanksgiving as a family,” O’Connor said. “(The meal) is really an act of volunteerism and giving back to the community.”
She said the meal, which was served at St. Michael’s Hall, consisted of traditional Thanksgiving foods, such as turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and pie.
Michael O’Connor, president of Lynn Fire Fighters Local 739 (the firefighters union) and Kelly’s brother, said the union took over hosting the event several years ago, incurring all of the costs and doing all of the cooking.
When his parents started the meal 29 years ago, O’Connor said 86 kids were fed, which has now grown to more than 300 children benefiting annually.
“It’s always been about the kids,” O’Connor said. “It’s never been about Lynn Fire.”
Matt Reddy, former union president, said his involvement with the Gregg House meal started prior to Lynn Fire taking over the event. He had started going down with his kids to volunteer and give back. He said other firefighters would volunteer as well and as a group, Lynn Fire decided they wanted to be more a part of it. The decision was made to incur all of the costs, with Lynn Fire taking over the event in 2010, he said.
Reddy said the meal is a way for the firefighters to show their support for the community and give back, and is as much fun for them as it is for the kids. He said they also bring their kids to help out. But he said the O’Connor family and Gregg House staff is still what makes the event, calling it a big group effort.
“I just think it’s a chance for us to give back for the things that we have,” said Lynn Fire Chief James McDonald. “(We) get our kids involved to show them not everybody has it as lucky as we have it.”
Yosef Diaz, 9, a fourth-grader at Connery Elementary School, said she has been with the Gregg House for three years, and was “happy and thankful” for Wednesday’s meal.
Janeyssi Morillo, 13, a seventh-grader at Breed Middle School, has been with Gregg House since she was in kindergarten.
“I think it’s (the meal) amazing because a lot of families don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and Gregg House gives an opportunity for kids to eat.”