ORLANDO, Fla. - Hundreds of volunteers spent their Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army of Orlando serving free meals to those in need.
The 25th annual "Helpings from the Heart" event began at 11 a.m. Thursday, but attendees started lining up hours before hundreds of volunteers began serving up turkey, ham, yams, mashed potatoes and dessert.
The Salvation Army teams up with Golden Corral every year to serve the free turkey day meals. This year, Maj.Ted Morris of the Salvation Army of Orlando said volunteers prepared 20,000 meals and they plan to serve each and every one.
"It's getting results because no one needs to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day. Not only is there food here, we have music, people laughing, building relationships. Families come together and eat here as their Thanksgiving meal, so that's how we're getting results here in this community," Morris said.
He said events like these are important during the holiday season, especially this year for the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico and the Central Floridians recovering from Hurricane Irma.
Viri Herrera said she never expected to spend her Thanksgiving in the gym of the Salvation Army, but the mother of three children fell on hard times after Hurricane Irma.
"I tried to get my kids to have a good meal, good life, good everything, but that's not always possible," Herrera said.
She said she and her family were without power and water for a month. They were forced to live in her car for a week and a half until they found a temporary home at a local hotel.
On Thursday, she was thankful to be receiving a warm meal from kind-hearted volunteers.
"You make the best of every situation and I'm just thankful, in a way, that we ended up like this because we would have never known that there's so much going on and so much help," Herrera said. "You never expect anything like this."
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