The coronavirus won’t keep Hazleton from handing out free community Easter meals later this month.

Anyone in the Hazleton area interested in the meal can call 211 and reserve a meal. The deadline to register is Wednesday. The meal will be distributed March 31.

“Last year COVID stopped us from having it and it was really heart-breaking. It really bothered us,” said Tony Colombo, an organizer of the meal which has been offered for at least five years.

Hazleton firefighters, the United Way and Catholic Social Services joined forces back then after realizing that groups in the Hazleton area had free, hot meals for every holiday but Easter. They continue to work together on the meals today.

The meal was hosted for years in memory of Ed Scarp, former community meal volunteer and Hazleton firefighter who died in 2013. This year, volunteers will also be thinking of another special person who passed away too soon.

Colombo said Rich Saullo, who was one of the long-standing volunteers of the Easter meal, passed away in April 2020.

Colombo said while the meal always offered a delivery service for people who couldn’t get out of their homes, this year, there will be no dining in. Every meal will be delivered to adhere to coronavirus safety precautions.

But, people will still be offered the same traditional dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, dinner rolls and dessert, with enough in the take-out containers for leftovers, Colombo said.

This year may pose a little challenge with every meal being delivered, so Colombo said anyone looking to help with a few deliveries can meet at Bonanza Steakhouse at 4 p.m. March 31 to pitch in. Volunteers delivering the food will leave the packaged meal at the recipient’s front door and ring the door bell, waiting at a distance to make sure the meal gets to the right person.

Packaging the meals will also take a little extra effort. Capriotti’s is slicing the ham donated by USA Pork Packers in West Hazleton, Colombo said. From there, it will be transferred to Bonanza, where it will be plated. Lehigh Valley Health Network donated the sides, while Frankie’s Pizzeria and Vesuvio’s are pitching in with preparations.

Other donations and support came from Carmen’s Bakery, Hazleton Rotary Club, Mary Scarp and PA 211/Family Service Association Team.

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