CLEVELAND (WJW) — On a rainy Thursday in November, people gathered inside St. Augustine Catholic Church and Hunger Center for a warm Thanksgiving meal.
“I have some turkey, I have some candied yams, some green beans, some corn, some dressing, some sweet potato pie,” said Linda Banks, one of the guests.
The annual feast is now headed by Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland.
“Father and sister had run this for the last 50 years we just want to continue what they’ve done and created, continue those same relationships and feed the people,” said program director Eric Milkie.
He said there was a big call this year for volunteers to deliver meals.
“The drivers, I think we had somewhere around 1,000 drivers today so it’s wonderful to see all of that.”
Last year, meals were delivery only because of COVID-19, but this year, volunteers were excited to see everyone back in the building.
“We’re very fortunate that we were able to do this again because, you know, last year wasn’t like it was like other years prior and it’s a blessing,” said Donna Cuevas, a 10-year volunteer veteran.
While some have been coming back for years, other volunteers are newcomers like 13-year-old Brandon Johnson.
“It’s wonderful just to like talk to them and interact with them and see what’s on their mind, what they’re going through.”
He is one of about 25 volunteers from Feed the Need, an organization founded during the pandemic to assist those who may not qualify for help with certain agencies.
“We began providing them a meal, a hygiene kit and then snacks to carry them throughout the day. We serve once a month, every third Saturday and make sure that their basic needs are met.”
While in retirement, Sister Corita Ambros continued to be a bright light for those in need.
“I love seeing each and every person here, and they’re enjoying themselves and that makes my Thanksgiving a very special day.”
From the dancing and joyful conversations to the food on the plate, the most important ingredient hung heavy in the room.
“Our love, our love, everyone puts their tender love and care into everything we make here,” Cuevas said.
Catholic Charities said it planned for 15,000 meals total between St. Augustine, three other sites and deliveries.