Thousands enjoy a good meal, fellowship at Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving

Thousands of Oahu’s needy turn out for free Thanksgiving dinner and fellowship

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the 49th year, the Salvation Army provided free Thanksgiving dinners to Honolulu's needy.

"There are many who are really homeless on the streets, but there are many who just live paycheck to paycheck and barely make it along," said Major Jeff Martin, divisional leader for Salvation Army Hawaii.

The lines to get in the Neal Blaisdell Center were long Thursday, and organizers say 2,000 people showed up for the event.

For Gerard Kaleohano, he says he's not only grateful for the free meal, but also the company.

"It's a blessing for people that don't have family or friends," said Kaleohano. "It's a blessing to be out here among other people, especially during the holidays, instead of being by yourself."

Kaleohano says this his first year attending the Salvation Army event.

He says like many in the room, he's trying to get back on his feet after recently hitting rock bottom.

“A lot of people, they’re struggling. Just this meal alone is going to last me the whole day, so we have to stay thankful,” Kaleohano said.

11-year-old Noah Kauo and his family have spent several Thanksgiving dinners at the Blaisdell together.

"I like it when we're all gathering together because me and my family live separately," said Kauo. "We came here last year on this very same table. Me and my family can eat, feel good about it, I love it."

At around noon, the ceremonial Thanksgiving turkey was escorted to the stage where it was blessed and carved.

Behind the scenes, hundreds of volunteers were busy preparing the plates to be served to the crowd.

"We're having turkey and we're having about 900 pounds of it. We're having about 250 pumpkin pies and more gravy than I can even imagine, and everything else that goes along with it," said Martin.

For many of the volunteers, they say they show up year after year because this event exemplifies the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“Just a chance is all these people need, and this helps them,” said volunteer Ralph Gray. “Having a meal for the day makes a big difference. You would hope it would encourage them to know that people care about them.”

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