CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thanksgiving is a day spent crowding in the kitchen, making memories with family, but for many in our community, it’s a meal that’s simply too expensive and many go without.

Well thanks to the generosity of the Charlotte community, the Charlotte Rescue Mission collected and then hand-delivered thousands of Thanksgiving meals Monday.

“We have been blessed to collect over 3,000 turkeys this past weekend and now we are going back to the community and distributing the turkeys and thanksgiving food boxes to roughly 3,000 families which represents 12- thousand individuals,” said Tony Marciano, President and CEO of Charlotte Rescue Mission.

The food box Marciano described is filled with items to make a complete Thanksgiving meal, including, “mashed potatoes and dressing, cranberry sauce and string beans and dessert. Everything a family needs,”said Marciano.

Marciano said the goal of the Thanksgiving food box program is to enable families to create memories around the Thanksgiving table.

“So that it’s a day of lingering, cooking the turkey, checking it, pulling it out, carving it, deciding who gets the wish bone…all those great memories for the young children and adults to look back on and go, ‘I remember great times,’ he said.

NBC Charlotte was there as Marciano and his team of volunteers delivered 100 turkeys and food boxes to Charlotte Family Housing in Plaza Midwood, a program that helps homeless families move into homes of their own.

“So, we have 25 families that live in our shelters and then about 150 families that we house in the community,” said Megan Burkhalter, Lead Social Worker for Charlotte Family Housing.

Burkhalter said the Thanksgiving boxes provide more than a meal for residents there, saying it provides a sense of normalcy and togetherness.

“A lot of our families when they come to us, they’re coming out of some kind of crisis and so they have really lost a sense of normalcy. So being able to celebrate Thanksgiving with their kids, as a family, in their home together and kind of have a normal Thanksgiving experience is going to be invaluable for them,” she said.

In addition to the delivered meals, the Charlotte Rescue Mission also hosts a Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving day at their facility, located at 907 W 1st Street near Uptown Charlotte.

Marciano said the dinner, although free, is served more like a restaurant.

He said there are white table cloths, centerpieces, goblets and guests are invited to order off a menu. He also said the volunteers are dressed as waiter and waitresses.

The experience he said is less about offering a free Thanksgiving meal, and more about providing a safe place for the most vulnerable to gather, be supported and most of all dine with dignity.

Marciano said they are full on volunteers for Thanksgiving, but the community can still help financially, by sponsoring diners for just $1.87 per meal.

He said they’ll soon be opening-up opportunities to volunteer for Christmas on their website. He said volunteer slots usually fill up within 30 minutes. For more information, click here.

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