HOPEsgiving: Salvation Army handing out 500 turkeys to those in need

Coronavirus pandemic changes look of agency’s annual Thanksgiving dinner

The Salvation Army of Orlando’s annual Thanksgiving dinner will look a lot different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Salvation Army of Orlando’s annual Thanksgiving dinner will look a lot different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instead of a traditional eat-in dinner, the agency will serve to-go meals for individuals in need at its first HOPEsgiving Dinner.

On Thanksgiving Day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Salvation Army in Orlando will distribute 5,000 pre-packed Thanksgiving meals from its gymnasium on 440 W. Colonial Drive.

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“More than other times in the past 27 years, this Thanksgiving tradition needs to continue to let those who are struggling know that they are not alone and that someone cares,” said Captain Ken Chapman, area commander of The Salvation Army Orlando.

In addition, the agency is hosting a HOPEsgiving Turkey Drive on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving. The drive-thru event was held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 440 W. Colonial Drive.

“We’re seeing a new class of people. People who were helping us and donating to us last year are now in our line asking for help. So you can tell this pandemic has had a very devastating effect,” Captain Ken Chapman with the Salvation Army said.

It’s a reality millions across the country are still facing as we approach the holidays

But on Tuesday, some of those struggling families felt a sense of hope with the Salvation Army’s HOPEsgiving day event. It was one of two events the week of Thanksgiving for less fortunate people in Central Florida.

“We have 500 boxes of dry food, and a box of snacked food--food that could be used like canned tuna and things like that -- as well as a turkey for the first 500 families that show up today, so they’ll have a happy Thanksgiving,” Chapman said.

A line of hundreds of cars waited for several hours, and right before 1 p.m. they began to pull into the Salvation Army’s parking lot in Orlando. Their trunks popped open and volunteers rushed to pack them with boxes of food.

Chapman said it’s a gesture of compassion the organization has been providing every Tuesday since April.

“This has been a tough for all of us and this year more than ever we need to reach out as a community and help those who are in need,” he said. “Today is a very important day that people know that the community cares, they’re not alone. It shows that the City Beautiful has a wonderful heart for their own people and my heart is blessed by that.”

To learn more about the available volunteer opportunities or to make a donation, visit SalvationArmyOrlando.org or call 407-423-8581.

About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on ClickOrlando.com, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.