CLEVELAND (WJW) – One of Cleveland’s best and most rewarding holiday traditions is the volunteer effort to serve Thanksgiving meals to the hungry and homeless. 

“What people don’t know, that in a skinny minute, it could be them. Life happens, it could be the death of a loved one, it could be depression, it could be anxiety, it could be a house fire,” said Terrel Valentine, a program coordinator with Catholic Charities. 

Extending a helping hand to the needy is the year-long mission of the St. Augustine Hunger Center in Tremont and the Bishop William Cosgrove Center Avenue on Superior Avenue. 

However, dedicated staff members and volunteers at the two facilities go the extra mile on Thanksgiving, when they prepare 15,000 hot meals that are served at 15 community-based agencies.

There is always a need for financial donations to support the charitable programs, and they are also asking Northeast Ohioans to drop off non-perishable food at St. Augustine all day on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

There is also an urgent need for volunteer drivers to deliver meals directly to the home-bound on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s heartfelt, it’s something that’s going to make you feel good inside,” said Valentine.

A Clevelander who has been impressed by the work of Catholic Charities over the years noticed that the hunger centers had to use dozens of old refrigerators to store donated food for the less fortunate and decided to do something about it.

The benefactor donated more $100,000 to pay for the installation of large refrigerator and freezer units at the Cosgrove Center.

The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, was honoring the wish of a late family member to find a way to care for the needy of Cleveland for generations to come.

“It makes it easier to receive our orders from our vendors, from food banks, and it also allows us to operate at a greater efficiency and capacity for all of our holiday meals,” said Terrance Ray with Catholic Charities.

“That is one of God’s angels and they walk amongst us every day,” said Valentine. “And that’s what I ask from everybody and it doesn’t have to be big. It can be small, it can be you just showing up.”

According to Catholic Charities, individuals interested in volunteering as delivery drivers can sign up here. Those who would like to request a meal can go online, email or call 216.377.3725.