Salvation Army’s ‘HOPESgiving’ provides thousands of meals for Central Floridians

Event now in its 28 year, organizers say

Orlando, Fla. – Toni, 69, is more than grateful to be getting a Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army in Orlando.

She said it’s not just about the food, it’s more than that.

“It’s a lot of people in my same situation, they don’t have a family so this is like family. They get to spend time with other people, and they feel homey,” Toni said.

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Hundreds of volunteers showed up to help out in this year’s “HOPESgiving” event, an annual tradition that provides thousands of meals for people in need.

“I think it’s great. It’s one of the main things people look forward to every year,” Toni said.

Darla Steed flew in from South Carolina to volunteer for this year’s event. She’s been volunteering with the Salvation Army for years.

“I mean even through COVID last year, they said we did, I think, 15,000 meals and I think 15,000 people. I did their vegetables today,” Steed said.

Due to the pandemic, the Salvation Army decided not to do a sit-down meal inside the gymnasium like other years. Instead, volunteers set up tents and tables outside and handed out pre-packaged meals to go.

“There are many people — 28 years we’ve been doing this — and there are many people who have done this for 20 years or so and it’s special to them it’s their Thanksgiving tradition,” Captain Ken Chapman said.

A tradition that brings hope to the community on a day we celebrate union and love.

“It’s not just about the food it’s the fellowship and bringing a little hope and letting people know that people care, and they don’t have to be alone on this great HOPESgiving Day,” Chapman said.

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About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!