There were times, growing up, when Marissa Viti and her family didn’t have much.
“We sometimes, literally, had nothing,” the Pennsylvania woman told InsideEdition.com.
“I was raised by a single mom. We went through a lot of problems financially,” she recounted. Her mom always worked, but her salary often wasn’t enough.
One year, a family friend brought them an entire Thanksgiving dinner. “My mom was crying,” Viti said, but they were happy tears. She was thankful for the help, and having that memory in the back of her mind since has inspired Viti to do something.
“Someone went out of their way to help us,” Viti said. And now Viti goes out of her way to help people she’s never met.
Since 2013, she has been constructing “Thanksgiving in a Box” — a brightly colored cardboard container filled with non-perishable fixings for a traditional dinner. Inside are mashed potatoes, the makings of a green bean casserole, the ingredients for a pumpkin pie and a handmade kitchen towel sewn by her mother.
“We try to make them as nice as possible,” Viti said. “So you get to put on a nice dinner for your family.
Also inside is a $50 gift certificate to purchase a turkey.
Viti, aided by her husband, Brian, and various family members, have gone from making a few boxes to assembling more than 80 this year, funded by more than $10,000 donated to a GoFundMe page.
She speaks to nurses and guidance counselors at her old high school, and they identify needy families to receive the dinners.
“So many people want to help,” she says. “I try to keep it to my family because we like to reflect about where we were 20 years ago. That’s a lot to take in.”