The Salvation Army offers Thanksgiving meals to families

More than 100 volunteers prepared and packed Thanksgiving dinners for 350 families. The Venice High School football team served as the delivery team.

VENICE, Fla. — After a brief hiatus due to Covid, the Salvation Army of Sarasota has brought back its Thanksgiving lunch tradition of providing hot meals to families in need.

More than 100 volunteers prepared and packed Thanksgiving dinners for 350 families. The Venice High School football team served as delivery drivers to help distribute meals to seniors in the community.

During lunch in Venice, food was served in the hall where guests were serenaded with music played by the Venice Symphony Orchestra.

Many local neighbors who attended the luncheon said they were grateful the event had returned, especially after recent challenges with inflation and extreme weather.

“Hurricane Ian damaged our house and we haven’t been able to fix it yet, but it’s still habitable and will be fine in the end,” said Katherine Hamilton of Venice.

Others are grateful for the simple things that many others around them no longer have.

“I am grateful to have my family, I have 11 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and two great great greats,” said Judy Howell of Bradenton.

Howell said she had been attending the luncheon for more than 20 years because she made friends through the event. For people like her and many others, the Salvation Army Thanksgiving breakfast means more than just a meal.

“We love it here because the people are always good, it feels like we’re helping give to others in the community,” said Larry Phillips of Venice.

“We provide presence ministry,” said Shawn Dupree, who leads the Venice branch of the Salvation Army in Sarasota. “There are people who don’t have families and they need companionship and so that’s what we’re giving to our community today.”

Along with all of their other programs, Dupree said it’s important to bring back lunch and dinner because the community is one of many people in the area who are experiencing food insecurity.

“We have a lot of elderly people living in this community who cannot afford to still feed themselves every day, so the Salvation Army is in the community to provide some support in that area,” said said Dupree.

“We hope they continue because it’s a really nice time to get together with other people in the community,” Hamilton said.

The Manatee County Salvation Army also provided meals to approximately 400 families.

Similar events and food deliveries have occurred at various Salvation Army sites across Tampa Bay, especially on Thanksgiving Day. The organization also plans to organize similar events for the Christmas holidays.

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