Here’s how Oakland makes sure no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — East Bay residents were able to choose from a number of free community Thanksgiving dinners this holiday.

The turkeys are prepped, the gravy is hot, and the hungry bellies are ready, lined up around the block.

“Often it’s a great way to spend at least part of your Thanksgiving,” said Tom Huetteman, a senior member of Lake Merritt Methodist Church.

Huetteman has been coming to Lake Merritt Methodist Church for three decades, the same time that church has been returning to Oakland every turkey day.

He says the line of people waiting for food tells a much bigger story about the needs in Oakland.

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“What you’re probably seeing there is that there are a lot of seniors in our community, they live nearby in senior housing and they’re struggling to pay, and so those meals and the groceries we provide are an essential help in making ends meet,” he said.

Elder Richard Greenlaw lives alone and is unable to cook a full turkey dinner for himself.

“It’s not the food, it’s the people, the food is everywhere, it’s the people,” Greenlaw said. “You get this good energy, and it’s so important, so important because right now I have PTSD and I’m just having trouble, I almost had a grease fire in the house l ‘other day.”

But none of these take-out meals would be possible without the hard-working volunteers who dedicated time to their own families to serve others on Thanksgiving.

“It’s about family and it’s about a family bigger than my own family,” said Sunae Cho, the senior pastor of Lake Merritt Methodist Church.

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Meanwhile, Two Star Market, owned and operated by four brothers, celebrates its 20th annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner.

“It stems from our holiday month of Ramadan and we wanted to use, capitalize on Thanksgiving Day – the spirit of giving back and we use this day to give back to the community,” said Farouq Alawei, co-owner of Two Star Market. “If it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t be here.”

A welcome and hearty meal for Patrice Williams who has been attending this community dinner for nearly 20 years.

“I had nowhere to go this Thanksgiving,” Williams said.

Just looking for a little relief from inflation, which has hit his family hard.

“They’re so generous, they obviously know what low-income people go through when they don’t have the money to spend on a big Thanksgiving for their family,” she said.

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