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‘That’s just what we do’
Community’s compassion embraces cancer victim

Zach Meck and his wife Suzanne, brother Jeremy and mother Joyce (left) are surrounded by all of the volunteers from Tulpehocken UCC, who held a donation pancake breakfast for Zach and Suzanne Meck attended by 475 people.

By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

TULPEHOCKEN, Pa. – We hear a lot these days about “paying it forward,” and that’s just what 475 people did Saturday, January 11, at the Tulpehocken UCC Church in Berks County. A morning well spent described the special breakfast to support Berks County dairy farmer Zach Meck and his wife, Suzanne, in Zach's battle against a rare form of cancer.

“I was amazed by the turnout of farmers,” said Denise Sites, a postmaster in Myerstown and member of the church where the pancake breakfast was held -- complete with silent auction and sale of baked goods.

Sites recalled dinners she organized in the past at the old country church and said it felt good to get in the kitchen again to spearhead Saturday’s donation breakfast for the young couple.

“I bonded with Zach immediately through these trying times,” she said, alluding to her own rounds of chemotherapy a year ago. “When I made the announcement one Sunday morning, more than 35 people just volunteered, right away.”

The turnout for the breakfast was so much better than expected that someone had to run for Bisquick after finishing off the pancake mix. Not only did the local farming community rally around Zach and Suzanne, dairy farmers and industry folks came from upstate and as far south as Virginia.

There was plenty of Land O’Lakes butter on hand to go with the maple syrup. Zach and his brother, Jeremy, operate Meck Brothers Dairy near Womelsdorf, and they ship their milk as member-owners of the Land O’Lakes cooperative.

Martha Pool and her daughter, Caitlyn, organized the silent auction with the help of Caitlyn’s sister, Taylor, and friend Raechel Sattazahn. Shirley Krall ran the bake sale. Over 30 items sold for over $4000 and included donations from Tulpehocken FFA, Binkley & Hurst, Central Petroleum, JBZ Dairy Advantage, the Perdue family, David and Kelly Keyes (cheese), Farmshine, Jeremy and Joyce Meck, Jackie Glauker and Gauker Farms, Leon and Nancy Weaver (cheese), Stacey Mertz, Udder Comfort International, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers, Cody Stepp, Moments In-Sight Photography, Michelle Morrissey, Doug and Raechel Sattazahn and additional anonymous donors.

In addition to the silent auction and baked goods, the breakfast donations showed the overwhelming generosity of the community, friends, and industry colleagues for one of their own.

Businesses donating to cover the cost of the breakfast foods and supplies, and then some, were Land O’Lakes, Mark Hershey Farms, Hershey Ag, Fisher & Thompson, Agri-Door, K&K Feeds, ABS Clark Zimmerman, Allied Milk Producers, Bernard Morrissey and Morrissey Insurance, Central Petroleum, Eagle Rental, Salvinell Meats, and Paul Miller.

Asking the volunteers why they got involved as they hustled and bustled throughout the morning, the common answer was: “I didn’t really think about it, that’s just what we do.”