CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — During a year consisting largely of health concerns and economic hardships, tens of thousands of Ohioans have been left to wonder where their next meal will come from.
“There are so many people that are losing their jobs,” Bishop M.L. Rodgers said. “There are so many companies and restaurants just closing down.”
Consequently, the thought of putting on a full Thanksgiving spread Thursday seems out of the question for some families.
“We didn't just give away a turkey. We gave away a whole meal,” Rodgers said. “The turkey to dressing to yams, the cranberry sauce. We wanted to give away the turkey and all the fixings.”
Rodgers is the lead bishop at Christ Kingdom Ministries in Mentor. He said thanks to community donations, his organization handed out nearly 500 Thanksgiving meals to Lake County families Tuesday.
“We had a line around the church,” Rodgers said. “We had a line that was going down the street headed toward the beach.”
Village Gardens in Cuyahoga Falls is also preparing to serve a free Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of families in need.
“I think we probably might reach maybe 175, closer to 200,” Tom Metlovski said. “And I've got 11 turkeys baking for them. That's going to be the full meal with the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, the gravy, cranberry sauce.”
The Metlovski family has been giving away free Thanksgiving meals for the last 14 years in honor of Metlovski’s late wife, Vicki.
“This is on behalf of my wife. She passed from cancer seven years ago,” Metlovski said. “And when we found out that she had cancer, it was always something in the back of my mind that I was going to do.”
The giveaways, funded largely by community donations, began shortly after her diagnosis. After Village Gardens purchases Thanksgiving supplies for the giveaway, the remainder of the proceeds is donated to Falls Cancer Club, Inc. to financially assist Cuyahoga Falls residents who are diagnosed with the disease.
“Bring a little bit of happiness to too many people out there who need it,” Metlovski said. “And we all need it at this time.”
This annual giveaway will look different Thursday due to the pandemic, but the Metlovski family will be handing out Thanksgiving meal kits in a drive-up fashion.
“We're just going to make the meals and put them outside under tents,” Metlovski said. “People are more than welcome to come get it or we'll just take it to their car.”
Both event organizers said helping Ohio families has never been more important than this time of record unemployment and growing food bank distribution lines.
“Everybody, from what I heard, has run out of supplies,” Rodgers said. “So the need is definitely great.”
Village Gardens is located at 2437 State Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls.
“This will be a good opportunity for them just to come get a good meal, go home, relax and just enjoy a nice turkey meal,” Metlovski said.