Giving Thanks By Giving Back

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Families, friends and strangers became a community Thursday as they shared a Thanksgiving meal together.

"Some are down on hard times, some have been down on hard times for a long time. A lot of these are seniors, some are living alone or are disabled. Some of these are folks that just don't have a job and don't know where to go. And, some folks may just not want to eat alone on this day," explained the Thanksgiving Feast Director, Michael Hood.

That's why the Cristo Rey Community Center opens its doors each year for those in need.

"I think it's wonderful. It's absolutely magnificent because, you know, you get to meet lots of people. It's actually just beautiful," Henry Bushard told News Ten.

Maddi Kenney added, "Cristo Rey don't ask for no ID, refugee papers or nothing like that, they welcome everybody as a whole."

Cristo Rey has been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for more than two decades. And this year, they're feeding about 700 people in the community.

"It's all volunteer driven," explained Cristo Rey's Executive Director, Joe Garcia. "It's helping out the community, you know, it's demonstrating what people coming together can accomplish and it's really nice. A lot of really good energy, a lot of really good just involvement , people helping out any way that they can."

More than 200 volunteers helped make Thursday's event a success.

Their work started at 5 p.m. Wednesday night.

"It feels good to be a part of the community, to be a part of something," said volunteer Dr. Sahar Eftekhar.

She's been working with the Community Center for the past 15 years.

"It's pretty amazing to see how big this event has come over the years and how many people we've been able to feed," Dr. Eftekhar told News Ten.

But, she added that it's also eye opening that the number of those in need keeps growing.

"Some people need support all throughout the year and we should be pretty cognizant of that, especially this is our backyard, our community," she said.

A people grateful their neighbors care.

Cristo Rey's Community Kitchen serves more than 22,000 meals each year. It's open for breakfast and lunch five days a week.

Organizers say they're always looking for volunteers.