Woman Inspired by Childhood Struggle Makes 'Thanksgiving in a Box' for Families in Need

A Pennsylvania woman is determined to provide Thanksgiving dinners to less-fortunate families.

Marissa Viti of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, has raised enough funds to assemble 50 Thanksgiving in a Box meals for people who cannot afford the holiday dinner.

"It was inspired by my childhood and the struggles of being raised by a single mom," Viti, 29, told ABC News. "We'd receive acts of kindness and, two years in a row, Thanksgiving dinners."

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Viti began her Thanksgiving in a Box project in 2013. She and her loved ones pooled their own money to put together five boxes that year.

In 2014 she started a GoFundMe page titled "Thanksgiving in a Box" and raised enough funds to feed 24 families.

Viti delivers the meals to her former high school, Central Valley in Monaca, which has dispensed them to people in need. The school distributes the boxes to maintain the privacy of the families.

"There's the concept that there is a complete stranger that cares about you — that's how I see it," Viti said. "In my household, we struggled, but my mom was constantly saying she loved us, and she'd say, 'I know were struggling in money, but we are not struggling in love.'

"I genuinely care about these families, even though I've never met them. I want them to know it's OK. It might be a reminder to them that times are hard but it can still turn out positive. It can be better."

Each Thanksgiving in a Box contains nonperishable food items like stuffing, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, cranberry sauce, salt and pepper shakers, yams, canned corn, drink mixes, cornbread mix, instant muffins for breakfast and everything needed for a green bean casserole.

Viti also includes a $50 gift card to buy a turkey and additional groceries. A decorative kitchen towel is placed inside each box as well — a special touch from Viti's mother.

Before Thanksgiving 2015, Viti had a death in the family and was unable to assemble boxes. This year, she continued the cause and raised enough funds for 50 boxes.

Three schools and her local Big Brothers Big Sisters program will pass out the meals to 50 low-income households.

"I hope it inspires people," Viti said. "If you don't want to contribute to my Thanksgiving, start your own. Start anything that you believe in. All you have to do is convince one of your friends or one of your family members on board. It's easy to help, and it's easy to be kind. You just have to choose to."

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