HAMMOND, La. — People everywhere are spending Thanksgiving with their families today. But what if you don't have someone to spend the holidays with?
Volunteers at one local food pantry in Hammond made sure anyone hungry has food to eat and a friend to celebrate with.
Since 1999, the food pantry Our Daily Bread has served the people of Tangipahoa Parish, feeding thousands over the years. In 2018, the pantry held its first Thanksgiving meal event to help those less fortunate.
Feeding hundreds of people on Thanksgiving is a big job and it takes a lot of helping hands. It was a two-day operation with volunteers putting in hours Wednesday and then coming back to cook again the next morning.
“It does as much for the people who come in the door as the people that serve, because they get to give back and share with the community. Some of these people have been waiting since last year to come and do this again," said pantry director John Hair.
The day’s menu was stacked with Thanksgiving favorites like cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, turkey and ham. But what they've found is that people don't just come for the food.
“There's a lot of homeless people throughout this area. When they come through the doors to eat during our normal days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it gives them a sense of family,” Hair said. “On the streets, they may be by themselves. They come here and recognize people and see people they know. They sit with them and it kind of creates a family-type atmosphere."
On a day when so many are spending time with their loved ones, this meal is connecting those without.
"They're probably thinking about when they were a kid, or when they had their family together. And so, this is going to be their family when they don't have a family," Hair said.
Volunteer Matthew Gerardino agreed.
“Thanksgiving is just once a year. Christmas is just once a year, but there's so many other opportunities throughout the year when we can really be family to people and be the support and encouragement to people," Gerardino said.
A hot meal, kind words and a conversation: They’re all ways you can change a person's day.
It's something we should all try to do more often.
Our Daily Bread’s Thanksgiving meal happened Thursday until 1 p.m. at the Hand of Hope building at 1006 W. Coleman Avenue in Hammond, next door to the Our Daily Bread food pantry.