CHICAGO - For many people who don't have a place to call home, the holidays can be a difficult time of year.
That's why The Salvation Army opened its doors Thursday – welcoming people out of the cold – to ensure that everyone has a hot meal this Thanksgiving.
"People are hungry and we want to be there to meet that need for them," said Capt. Nikki Hughes with The Salvation Army Freedom Center. "We are on our mobile outreach every day, but today they’ll get a special meal."
The event marked The Salvation Army’s first Thanksgiving meal in-person since the pandemic started.
It was a chance for community members who might not know where their next meal is coming from to sit down and enjoy the holiday.
"When we think about Thanksgiving, we think about friends and family around the table. Sometimes we don’t have that," said Hughes.
For some, having a seat at the table and a hot meal for the holiday is what they are grateful for this season.
"It’s a blessing from God to be able to eat something real nice for the people that’s unfortunate, it tastes really pretty good," said DJ Beat Master.
This Thanksgiving, The Salvation Army Freedom Center hosted hundreds of people to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
"The menu is fabulous! It’s dressing, it’s turkey, it’s gravy," said Hughes.
In addition, string beans, cranberry sauce, yams, and of course, pumpkin pie were served Thursday.
The scratch-made meals were provided by Levy Restaurants, which has partnered with The Salvation Army on Thanksgiving for the last six years.
"I am so blessed to be here in this world and the idea that I have the opportunity to come out here today to serve other people," said Rochelle Rolle, volunteer.
With the help of nearly 100 volunteers, like Rolle, 3,000 meals were distributed this holiday.
About 700 of those meals were served in-person while the rest were distributed on the go.
For some of this year’s guests, it’s their first Thanksgiving in the United States. More than 3,700 migrants from the Texas border have been welcomed to Chicago since late August – many of them, seeking support from The Salvation Army.
"When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of thanks, first and foremost, so the idea that people come here, and they are filled with gratitude so not only am I able to put a smile on their faces, they’re also able to put a smile on my face," said Rolle.
Grateful to be here – with friends and strangers alike.
"The Salvation Army has been helping me out a lot, I’m a resident here and this is my second clean Thanksgiving, and it feels good to be here," said DJ Beat Master.
The Salvation Army is already looking for other ways to give back throughout the holiday season. It will be hosting ‘Breakfast with Santa’ from 8 to 10 a.m. on Christmas. The event is free and open to the public.