Hundreds of volunteers handed out or hand-delivered thousands of meals across the Cleveland and Akron areas as part of St. Augustine Parish’s annual Thanksgiving meal program. This is the 46th year the parish has provided meals to those who would otherwise spend Thanksgiving hungry or alone.
By the time the day was done, church officials estimate more than 21,000 meals were provided.
“If you really think about it, you have a wonderful combination of poor people, people who are alone, and of volunteers. They are all wonderful people. They are here all day. It’s a great gift,” said Father Joe McNulty. “It’s very gratifying. The program itself developed truly because of the need and the volunteers.”
Those volunteers came out in full force, many of them arriving around 6:30 a.m. Thursday to begin meal preparations. The parish handed out hundreds of hot breakfasts beginning at 8 a.m. One of the volunteers was Cindy Formica, who brought along her 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son to volunteer as well.
“[My kids] need to be thankful for what they have on Thanksgiving and every day because a lot of these people don’t have anything else. This is all they have,” Formica said. “It’s almost an epidemic. When you drive up and down the streets any day of the week and you see people with nowhere to go -- and nobody should be hungry or alone, especially on holidays.”
The Thanksgiving meal had turkey and all the usual trimmings. Carefully organized groups of volunteers acted as servers, bringing the meals to the church’s guests. A folksy, polka band provided the soundtrack.
The room was welcoming, cheerful and festive. Most of all, however, it was a gracious atmosphere.
“We’re a church and that’s what we do. Also, because we are in Cleveland, we get the support we need to be able to do it. We couldn’t do it without that support,” McNulty said.
Volunteers also hand-delivered meals to people scattered around the Cleveland and Akron areas. Meals were also delivered to St. Colman, St. Andrew Kim, and Mary Queen of Peace parishes in Cleveland. Twenty-eight hunger centers and non-profits also requested meals for their guests.