Honored pizzeria owner: Giving to needy thanks enough

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DRACUT — State Rep. Colleen Garry is trying to clear her calendar for Nov. 19.

That is when Dracut House of Pizza owner Nick Manolis hopes to marshal his troops and deliver more than 600 Thanksgiving baskets to needy homes throughout the community.

“I definitely want to be here,” Garry recently told him, as she presented citations from the Statehouse to the Lakeview Avenue eatery recently.

“By all means, stop by,” Manolis said.

“Stop by? I want to help deliver the baskets,” she answered. “I want to be a part of this.”

Now in its 14th year, Project Helping Hands’ annual Thanksgiving food drive brings food to individual families, area nursing homes, women’s shelters and the clients of the Dracut Council on Aging.

Manolis remembers that first year, when 30 baskets were delivered. Last year, a small army of volunteers delivered 550 baskets.

Manolis receives the names and addresses of families in need of holiday help through organizations such as the Wish Foundation of Lowell, the Dracut Council on Aging and churches. Some of the names come from Community Teamwork Inc., of Lowell. Supermarkets and soft-drink distributors also pitch in.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, volunteers come together and begin putting the baskets together. On Monday, armed with addresses and directions, a fleet of vehicles head out to their destinations, bringing with them food, goodies, warm hearts and good wishes.

Dracut House of Pizza also recently picked up a special community-service award from the Lowell Chamber of Commerce. Manolis said that while it’s nice to be recognized, his greatest reward comes from seeing the smiles on the faces of families who are struggling.

Manolis, along with his wife, Voula, and their son, Elias, are once again looking for support in time for the holidays. Monetary donations and nonperishable food items can be dropped off at the Dracut House of Pizza, 1067 Lakeview Ave., Dracut, 01826. If you need your donation picked up, call them at 978- 957-5144 and arrangements can be made.