The spirit of giving shined bright at Fresno's Poverello House Thanksgiving day. For more than two decades, the shelter has served Thanksgiving lunch to the city's homeless and hungry. For those in need, the feast was more than a meal.
Hours before the crowd rolls in, the meal was in the works. Thanksgiving staples were preparing to hit hundreds of plates. The yams, sunk into a pot of boiling water. The turkey, fresh out the oven, was ready to be carved.
Just as it has been for more than 20 years, like clock work, at Noon, the Thanksgiving feast was served. But there's one thing that isn't so constant at the Poverello House. The people who go there to enjoy the turkey and the rimmings.
Poverello House operations director Kathryn Weakland says, "Definitely the people change. Some stay the same, the same clients are here year after year and day after day."
There are some familiar faces, but many are strangers. Still, everyone here shares something.
"We're all in the same boat you might say. We're all down and out at the present time, but we all got our heads above water. We're still looking to better ourselves," says Dennis Williams who is out of work and homeless.
"It's a special day. We want to be able to give back to our clients and make them feel at home even though they're not at home," says Weakland.
The people on the receiving end of that generosity were just as full of gratitude, as they were after clearing their plates.
Douglas Jiminez says,"I thank everybody here for making the food for everybody. I'm thankful for that, and our lives and that God made us."
There's something else at the house that seems to stay the same. The sense of belonging and hope it gives to people who have no where else to go.
"I'm thankful for everybody that comes in, they're god sent." "Anybody that comes through the door or comes through the gate is family," says Williams.
For those like Dennis Williams, sharing a Thanksgiving meal with strangers who turn into new found family, is reason enough to be thankful.
Now that Thanksgiving has just about wrapped up, the Poverello House and all of its volunteers will get ready to do the same thing on Christmas Day.
Officials say they've seen a significant increase in the number of people struggling to find their next meal. Five years ago, the shelter fed about 800 people daily. Today, they're feeding about 1,300.