More than 500 free Easter meals delivered across Valley

Mar. 31—RICHFIELD — When Amber Kehler's partner lost his job, she worried about paying bills for their family of five on her fast food restaurant earnings.

The Coal Township mother of three young children heard that a Mount Pleasant Mills family was offering 200 free Easter dinners and baskets for children yet was reluctant to reach out.

"I was embarrassed," Kehler said. "But I was looking at paying bills or (buying) Easter baskets."

So, she and her partner, Ronald Nye who recently got a new job, put in a request and also offered to help deliver some of the 500 meals prepared by Wendy and Scott Apple and nine other volunteers at Richfield Life Ministries Church in Snyder County.

"When I was struggling, people were helpful to me. I wanted to pay back," Kehler said Saturday morning as she and Nye, with the aid of the Apple's son, Nathan, filled their vehicle with 93 meals and 54 baskets to be delivered to 22 households in Northumberland, Sunbury, Shamokin, Mount Carmel and Coal Township.

Dozens of individuals and businesses stepped up with donations and hands-on help to provide for and prepare the meals and pastel-colored baskets filled with candy and plush toys after the Apples decided to continue a tradition of feeding the less fortunate during the holidays.

It began in 2021 when the family cooked 50 Thanksgiving dinners in their Mount Pleasant Mills home, which they've done every year before extending the free meal giveaway to Christmas last year.

Initially, the Apples announced they would give away 200 Easter meals and baskets on Facebook a few months ago, but the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture sent a letter shutting down the plan because the family did not have a license to prepare food for the public from a private kitchen.

That's when Richfield Life Ministries Church offered their kitchen and requests for free meals skyrocketed.

The Apples and several volunteers arrived at the church at 5 a.m. Saturday morning to begin preparing 507 individually packaged meals created with 26 hams, mashed potatoes, gravy corn, fruit cups and bread rolls.

By 11:45 a.m., nearly all of the meals and nearly 400 baskets were out the door and the cleanup was underway.

Janel Horvath offered to make deliveries to several Union County residents and brought her children, Ella, 8, and Jackson, 6, along.

"It's important to have my kids give back," she said, as they inspected the Easter baskets filled with goodies not knowing that they each would receive one Easter morning.

Volunteers were essential in the effort, said Wendy Apple as she took a quick break from the kitchen shortly before noon Saturday before departing for home where she would begin cooking one more ham and all the trimmings that she and 19 family members will enjoy together today.