HOWARD — Usually, you can expect an Easter basket to be filled with candy, brightly colored eggs, and small toys that kids will love. A special Easter basket presented to a family in the Howard area last week was also full of love, prayers and a huge surprise.
Patti Long, acting on behalf of the Howard United Methodist Church, presented Emanuel Yoder and his family with a basket of gift cards and checks totaling $10,825 donated by family, friends and those in the community who are enjoying a spaghetti Dinner ate held as a benefit for the family. The fundraiser was held on April 1st to support the family with their needs and expenses as Emanuel prepares for a stem cell transplant to fight cancer.
Yoder was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in October 2018 and received his first stem cell transplant in May 2019. This type of myeloma is a blood cancer that forms in the white blood cells (plasma cells). When these cells are healthy, they help the body fight off infection. During the first transplant, the transplant team of doctors and oncologists removed his own cells and then treated them before reintroducing them into his body so they could grow and get into his bone marrow to make new, healthy blood cells.
The Howard United Methodist Church hosted a benefit spaghetti dinner for the family in 2019 and saw up to 300 people order a meal and line up to eat just to show their support.
When the church decided that year to hold a second fundraiser to help the family, it expected to feed the same number of people. When the food was announced, the church wanted people to pre-order their meals, so a certain amount of planning was required to have enough food and coordinate cooking preparations. Generally, meal prep is handled by Patti Long, a parishioner who enjoys cooking, and she had already contacted DelGrosso’s to arrange pasta, gravy, meatballs, aprons and placemats for 300 meals.
As the commercials died down and each day passed that Long received call after call making meal reservations, some changes had to be made.
“I called DelGrosso’s and increased the number to 400.” said Long. She picked up supplies from DelGrosso’s in Tipton on Thursday and stopped at Sam’s Club to get the other ingredients she needed to prepare the meal.
And her phone was ringing with more and more people asking for food, so she headed back to Sam’s Club to get more spaghetti, gravy, and the ingredients she needed to make sure she had enough to eat, if more and more calls came in.
“Sam’s Club was out of spaghetti by then, so I went to Walmart and bought whatever they had, and I’m always glad I did.” said Long.
On Friday, Long started cooking the pasta at 10:30 a.m. after receiving calls from workers at the treatment plant in Bellefonte Borough, where Emanuel’s father Alvin works. The WWTP staff all ordered food for their lunch to show their support for both Alvin and Emanuel.
“Our church volunteers helped prepare and wrap the salads, cut the 35 donated cakes, placed the cake slices in containers, and wrapped the bread rolls that came with the meal while I got things cooking.” Added long.
“I had four or five pots on the stove boiling pasta all day and I think the last pot finally came down at 6:45 p.m. I think it was 120 pounds of spaghetti noodles that we cooked. We took care of the pre-orders first and told those who would be waiting in line that once all the pre-orders were filled we would let them know and they could buy meals until we ran out.”Long said, remembering her days of strolling around the kitchen.
A total of 500 meals were sold for the benefit and “People gave us extra cash donations and checks made out to the Yoder’s. Some presented gift cards for family to help them while traveling to doctor appointments and for their stay in Hershey.” said Long.
“It was an absolutely wonderful day and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it,” Long opened up about her spaghetti dinner experience and how the community came out to help one of their own.
Emanuel was due to receive the stem cell transplant in mid-April, but that has been delayed by a few weeks because his oncologist wants him to have more chemotherapy and radiation before the transplant to have a better chance of a successful outcome. All sick cells must be destroyed, but doing so will also kill good cells. This also weakens his immune system and makes him more susceptible to infections.
A donor was found in the donor database who had a very good match with 8 out of 8 human leukocyte antigens (HLA). 6 out of 8 HLAs are considered a good match. Emanuel’s younger brothers Levi and Joel were both tested as donors. Levi was a 5 of 8 match and Joel was a 4 of 8 match.
Emanuel is a graduate of Bald Eagle Area High School and is currently on short-term sick leave from UAJA. He and his wife, the former Jessica McCloskey, have been married since September 2006. The couple have three daughters, twins Alexis and Autumn, 14, and MacKenzie, 8.
Emanuel, Jess and their parents, Alvin and Sheila Yoder and Scott and Tammy McCloskey, are overwhelmed by the care and support they have received over the past four years. The families are very grateful for the funds, which will help them settle down while awaiting their stem cell transplant.