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Feeding Cleveland's community during Thanksgiving

Local organizations and churches are giving away meals and turkeys, making sure no one goes hungry during the holidays.

CLEVELAND — You may be thawing out your turkey or last-minute shopping for all the trimmings – getting ready for Thanksgiving with food, family and friends.

But for some, the holiday means hunger, and a day spent without loved ones.

Many Greater Cleveland organizations and churches are making sure everyone gets fed and has a place to spend Thanksgiving. Dean Roff, founder of Homeless Hookup, isn't serving just any holiday meal to the needy this year.

“Each plate was priced at $35," said Roff, whose organization will distribute 150 heated gourmet dinners to the homeless on Thanksgiving. "These are good dinners that come from a very nice restaurant. I'm excited to get these out. It's about making sure the homeless are treated with dignity, too. They deserve a fancy meal too."

LIST: Where you can get a free Thanksgiving meal in Northeast Ohio

Dean's organization is just one of many in the area working long hours to make sure everyone has a hot meal and a place to gather for Thanksgiving.

"It takes 40 hours to get this done, to make it happen," Jerry Derrick, chef at East Cleveland's Salvation Army, told us. "I come in [at] about 6-7 in the morning and cook everything, all this you see."

Ebony Sandford enjoys Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army every year. She looks forward to the togetherness it brings.

"They got your fruits, vegetables, turkey, dressing, ham – everything you'd want for Thanksgiving," she gushed. "Yes, I'm here for the food, but also for the love. They]re really lovely here, very family oriented. It's really real."

According to the Census Bureau, 1 In 8 Americans didn’t have enough food  last Thanksgiving – a drastic increase compared to pre-pandemic totals.

"It doesn't matter who you are: Anyone who's hungry can get a meal," Major Brian Glascom who heads up food distribution at the East Cleveland distribution, said. "My mom used to feed everyone in the neighborhood, and I feel like that's what we should do. We should take care of our community."

Over in Ohio City, Sister Corita Ambro handed out free meals Tuesday at Townhall. She fed the hungry at St. Augustine for over 50 years, and even though she retired three years ago, she still sees to it that people have a hot meal on Thanksgiving.

"Honey, that's one of the most important things, ok?" Ambro explained. "I believe it's like a family day for us at St. Augustine. I love the smiles and seeing people having a wonderful holiday. I do this because it's the Lord's work."

RELATED: 9th annual Feed the Need, hosted by Baker and Emily Mayfield at TownHall

And when the fixin's are all gone, the leftover turkey becomes turkey soup. When the holiday is behind us, it's important to remember that for many, hunger and loneliness will continue – reminding us to be thankful for all we have today.

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