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Feeding the hungry this Thanksgiving looks a little different due to COVID-19

Union Gospel Mission in Portland will have to forgo sit-down meals but still plans to feed about 1,000 people. Others are also feeding people in different ways.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Like just about everything this Thanksgiving, the way people in need are being fed is different. 

Serving up a hot holiday meal is an annual tradition at the Union Gospel Mission in Portland, which helps the homeless all year long.

“We actually have volunteers who serve them a meal while they are sitting; that’s one of the ways we try and make them feel cared for and loved,” said Union Gospel Mission spokesperson Courtney Dodds.

The sit-down part is not possible because of Oregon's COVID-19 restrictions, so food will be to-go from the mission or delivered to homeless camps throughout the area during the week of Thanksgiving.

“We’re going to do our best to still give people a hot traditional Thanksgiving meal, so it will be turkey and potatoes and casserole and yams and pumpkin pie, said Dodds, who added that, as in years’ past, food recipients will also be receiving smalls gifts to go with their food.

Credit: KGW

Next to their food cart along Northeast 82nd avenue, the guys of Trap Kitchen are handing out turkeys first come, first served.

Some recipients drove up, others walked. All were thankful.

“Yeah, this means a lot to me and my family. It’s gonna help us out,” said Connie Johnson, who came for a free turkey.

“I’m lucky to have friends to be with but financially, this helps a lot, so I’m glad this is here,” said Aaron Dodds, who also received a free bird.

About 160 turkeys were going out to the community in this way on Sunday. Organizers said giving back is part of Trap Kitchen's tradition.

“So we just wanted to keep the ball rolling, and we felt like this was a time when a lot of people are in need with the pandemic. And we just want to give back to our people. So many people support us, we wanted to give back to the people,” said Mikey V.

Willie Sanders was taking one turkey for his family and another for a grandmother and her grandkids, riding in the church van he drove to the giveaway.

“Well, you see how the world is today, things are changing, not how it used to be,” said Sanders. “Food is needed, that’s number one, to keep us surviving. And I don’t know what to say but thank you.”

Back at the Union Gospel Mission, this year will be quieter on Thanksgiving Day, but the homeless ministry expects to serve more than the 800 meals it usually does with sit-down service.

“This year, we’re planning to prepare 1,000 Thanksgiving meals, and so it seems like we’re increasing the number of meals this year because we’re spreading them out and doing it through the whole week,” said Dodds.

While there aren’t as many opportunities to volunteer at the Union Gospel Mission this Thanksgiving, there are other ways you can help such as making a donation

This time of year, things like handwarmers, coats and blankets are especially important. And financial support is always needed to feed the homeless.