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Restaurant week in Luzerne County benefits Fork Over Love

JoAnn Prohaska hands over a bag with restaurant-prepared meals at Dallas High School on Oct. 4. The nonprofit Fork Over Love organizes free meal events across Luzerne County.
JoAnn Prohaska hands over a bag with restaurant-prepared meals at Dallas High School on Oct. 4. The nonprofit Fork Over Love organizes free meal events across Luzerne County.

A fundraiser starting this Sunday benefits a nonprofit that provides free restaurant-made meals to families across Luzerne County. Fork Over Love coordinated with more than 50 restaurants for their “Give A Fork” restaurant week from Oct. 8 to 14. The organization hopes to grow into other counties in the near future.

Fork Over Love pays local restaurants to prepare hundreds of meals and distributes them at events throughout the region, mostly relying on donations, sponsorship and federal grants since starting up in January 2021. Its goal is to support local businesses and make sure people have access to high quality food.

Founder and CEO Tracey Selingo says her group has invested more than $500,000 at 82 restaurants and served over 53,000 meals since the work began. Now she’s asking the community to dine out next week and support the cause.

Christy Delaney’s family owns Overbrook Pub & Grille and she manages the Dallas restaurant. She delivered takeout meals – chicken bruschetta served with wild rice pilaf and green beans – to Dallas High School on Wednesday night ahead of a Fork Over Love meal service. Overbrook is also participating in restaurant week.

“If you could go out and know your money’s going towards a good cause to help people around you, why not?” Delaney said.

All next week, Overbrook will serve what Delaney called their “signature” crab-stuffed lobster, with a portion of sales going back to Fork Over Love.

Ruth Corcoran is co-chair of the fundraiser and sits on the nonprofit’s board. She’s gotten restauranteurs to sign on for the week, with some agreeing to share profits from specific dishes, like Overbrook, while others will contribute partial proceeds from entire days.

Corcoran says it’s probably the first restaurant week that includes the entire county.

“We have restaurants from Hazleton all the way up to Duryea,” Corcoran said. “There’s restaurants of every price point.”

For example, if you order pumpkin waffles at Marie’s Diner in Duryea at any point next week, Fork Over Love will benefit. Buy anything at Ovalon Bar & Grill in Hazleton on Oct. 9, the nonprofit also sees a cut. The full list of participating restaurants and meals – from hot dogs to fine-dining tasting menus – can be found at forkoverlove.org. Raffle tickets for a grand prize 52 weeks of dinner are also available.

How the community also benefits

Dozens of cars filed into the Dallas High School parking lot Wednesday to pick up free meals from Dallas-area restaurants. Selingo said some were there two hours early ahead of the 5 p.m. start time. She greeted drivers as they pulled up to the front of the school.

“We have three tables here tonight, but we actually have four restaurants that we’ve asked to cook and invested in,” Selingo said. “We have a total of four hundred meals tonight.”

Fifteen volunteers filled reusable bags with takeout meals from Overbook Pub, Tomasino’s, CK’s Cantina and Bernie’s Pizza. The nonprofit says anyone can participate and volunteers don’t ask why people show up for the meals. Still, some who arrived Wednesday said they’d take the meals to neighbors or older relatives, donating cash to support future events.

St. Therese’s Church in Shavertown sponsored the Dallas school event. Parishioners chatted with people in their cars and took their orders.

Fork Over Love has popped up at 25 different host sites in Luzerne and Wyoming counties – from libraries to schools and community centers – and even organized deliveries to homes. Events are walk-up or drive-thru.

Later this month, volunteers will be at the Hazleton Integration Project on Oct. 26 and Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square on Oct. 29. The nonprofit’s rotating meal schedule mostly serves Luzerne County, but Selingo said they’ve also made it to Tunkhannock, Wyoming County.

Selingo said if the “Give A Fork” restaurant week goes well, she’d love to expand its dinner distributions to “Lackawanna County and beyond” in the future.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.