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Want to help the poor during the holidays? Pick another day

Volunteers are appreciated on Thanksgiving but are needed all year.

CLEVELAND — Twenty-one-thousand turkey dinners.

That’s how many meals Cleveland’s St. Augustine Catholic Church will serve and deliver on Thanksgiving.

An army of volunteers makes it happen, including a lot of families, who come to help, feel good and enjoy the camaraderie.

Their efforts are always appreciated, says Sister Corita Ambro, who’s been managing volunteers at the church’s hunger center for more than 40 years.

But she and others who work with the poor and less fortunate want to remind volunteers not to forget the other 364 days a year, when the spirit of holidays isn't in the air.

St. Augustine welcomes volunteers anytime but Sister Corita says the work lasts all day and every day, even Thanksgiving.

"Most people like to get home by 1 o’clock on Thanksgiving," she says, leaving a large job for a few dedicated volunteers. "So, I've lately asked a lot of people not come 'til 3 o'clock."

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Tom Janusczak, a volunteer who lives near the church, works seven days a week at the hunger center. He chopping carrots, peeling potatoes and stocking shelves never ends.

"Around noon a lot of stuff comes in an gets backed up,” he says. “I'm the one who sorts it and puts it away. It gets frustrating."

St. Augustine started cooking turkeys and preparing the meals in September.  

Stephen Williger, acting executive director of Hands On Northeast Ohio, an organization that links people with volunteer opportunities, says lending a hand on other days can have bigger meaning for the poor and the volunteers.

"Everyone expects to be fed on Thanksgiving and Christmas," he says. “Come February 2 when the snow is flying and there’s no place to go and nothing to eat, and having someone hand a guest a plate, is really a very special thing.”

To connect with volunteer opportunities, you can start with

Hands On Northeast Ohio

https://www.handsonneo.org/

Greater Cleveland Volunteers

https://www.greaterclevelandvolunteers.org/

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