(NEW YORK) — Most Americans will spend Thanksgiving by overindulging in turkey and all the fixings, and then sit in the warm company of friends and family to watch football and eat pie.
But victims of superstorm Sandy, which battered the Northeast less than a month ago, are still reeling from widespread flood damage, and many families still don’t have homes to celebrate in. It’s the same for America’s homeless, roughly 250,000 of whom are on the streets on any given night.
But volunteers across the United States have sprung into action, finding ways to help make Thanksgiving a day that those less fortunate can also celebrate.
Where superstorm Sandy came ashore and relentlessly flooded homes and businesses, volunteers are pitching in today. On New York’s Staten Island, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has estimated damages at $33 billion, more 1,500 volunteers from New Jersey’s Liquid Church showed up to clean out damaged and flooded homes, and serve hot meals.
According to Pastor Rich Birch, the church’s “Sandy Thanksgiving” efforts have gone viral.
“Within the first 48 hours after we asked people to cancel their Thanksgivings and come to Staten Island, we got 1,000 volunteers,” Birch told ABCnews.com.
Birch said the church’s efforts, which are concentrated in Staten Island’s Midland Beach area, will continue through the weekend, and he expects a total of about 1,600 volunteers, all told.
On the other side of the country, in San Jose, Calif., Julia Casanova, when she heard San Jose’s Sacred Heart Community Service group didn’t have enough money to feed people on Thanksgiving, turned her 10th birthday into a fundraiser. The $400 she raised helped close the service group’s donation gap.
“I want everybody to have a nice Thanksgiving,” Casanova told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco. “Everybody deserves a turkey, or at least a meal to give thanks.”
The Sacred Heart drive, which is in its 48th year, will provide food boxes for around 4,000 people.
Here are a few more examples of people helping others on Thanksgiving:
At Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, Calif., a 30-year-old program will again donate Thanksgiving meals to low-income, single-parent student families enrolled at the school.
In Atlanta, another decades-old event expects to feed more 10,000 people by 4 p.m.
In Houston, a restaurant owner donated Thanksgiving dinner to 20-area families after overhearing a little boy at a gas station ask his mom if they’d get to eat on Thanksgiving.
Rescue Mission of Salt Lake City expects to serve a record 1,500 Thanksgiving dinners to the homeless today.
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