WARD (KHNL) - This Thanksgiving, the battered economy has The Salvation Army reaching out to more people in need. At its annual turkey day tradition at the Neal Blaisdell Center, the turnout was higher than last year.
This year, organizers prepared room for a record number of families, who can't afford a Thanksgiving celebration in these tough times.
It's an annual tradition, open to all walks of life. This year, The Salvation Army's Thanksgiving celebration drew many first-timers who normally spend the holidays at home.
"Things got really hard. I was out for surgery, but now went back to work so I'm starting to get back on my feet, impossible, so we came here today," said Sylvia Iulie, a guest.
Organizers say they're seeing more families, struggling to make ends meet.
"In an event like this, it's wide open to everybody so you'll see the homeless but when you see seniors, when you see an increase in the number of families with children, it's a little bit heart-wrenching," said Major Edward Hill, Salvation Army Divisional Commander.
But heart-warming at the same time, as holiday spirits are lifted in ways some have never experienced before.
"My mom didn't have money so this is her first time to get some things so we could eat," said Michelle Gimenez, a guest.
"I feel so inspired, it's like chicken skin, I feel so inspired, I feel so great because there's no family to invite me to join them in a family meal so I just come here and I feel so wonderful," said Daniel Wang, a guest.
And if there is a silver lining to these hard times, it's seen here through the generosity, unity, and cheer on this Thanksgiving Day.
Last year, The Salvation Army's Thanksgiving celebration drew 2100 people. This year, it prepped for 2500 people.
The massive event is run entirely through donations, from the turkey feast, to the entertainment, and all the holiday trimmings.