With COVID cases rising across the Delaware Valley, many families are celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year, and so are their local representatives.

“We usually have a large extended family gathering at my sister’s house,” said State Rep. Ben Sanchez (D-Montgomery). “Unfortunately, we can’t do that this year.” Instead, he’ll be celebrating in a much smaller setting and one that can hopefully be outdoors.

State Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery) said his family’s travel plans had been upended. However, they’ll be using virtual means to see family members. “We will not be traveling but will utilize Zoom to stay in touch.”

McCarter emphasized the need to keep people and the Pennsylvania health system safe, which neared a record 3900 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday. “The risk to friends and family and our healthcare workers is far too great,” he said.

State Rep. Mary Jo Daley’s (D-Montgomery) tradition of visiting New York the day after Thanksgiving is out the window. Usually traveling with her husband and sisters-in-law, in past years they’d see a show, enjoy some fine dining and walk “all over the city.” But, the 11-year custom has been canceled for 2020. “We’ll definitely miss that,” Daley said.

Daley and her husband will be joined by some of their children and their spouses on Thursday. But some won’t be able to make this year, of which Daley says “we will miss them, but are following the guidance of keeping the gathering smaller.”

For Air Force veteran State Rep. Joseph Webster (D-Montgomery), small holiday gatherings with missing family members isn’t new. Back in his days of service, Webster and his friends “made our own Thanksgiving,” he said. They’d call home for different recipes for dishes and improvise a meal.

Webster provided some hope that Thanksgiving this year could be salvaged by comparing it to the memories he has of those holidays when he served. “Those were good days,” he said. “We created friendships that to me are family.”

But while Thanksgiving will still be celebrated in small gatherings, many in need will not feast. Even worse news, charities that help those struggling now are in tough times themselves.

Marissa Christie, president & CEO of United Way of Bucks County, said “people are at all different places right now” when it comes to their finances, making donations harder to receive and therefore charities harder to operate. However, local Samaritans have stepped up to help out during this time.

“A generous couple in our community has given us a challenge gift: If we can secure 250 donations [by] Giving Tuesday, they’re going to donate an additional 50,000 dollars to our community support campaign,” said Christie. Giving Tuesday is December 1.

This isn’t the first time this family has risen to the occasion. They made a similar challenge pledge in June, which was a success according to Christie.

And despite fewer donors due to a tough economy, Christie says those that have the means to donate have upped their offerings. “They know how challenging things are.” But she did add that there are “a lot of folks who are struggling.”

Christie said this Thanksgiving she’s thankful for the couple has one against stepped up with financial support. “They are so passionate about helping people in our community. That I am a million times grateful for.” She added she was also thankful for her family’s and friends’ health this year.

While Thanksgiving may be radically different, the good news is the promise of vaccine relief is inspiring hope that this will be a one-time event. And on that note, Webster says, “I’ll tell you what: next year we’re gonna be pretty grateful to all be together.”