For some Orlando homeless, a little Disney magic on Thanksgiving

For some Orlando homeless, a little Disney magic on Thanksgiving

Orlando, Florida. – Volunteers from the Walt Disney World team returned this week to help with the tradition of the holiday – feeding the homeless.

Every year for more than 20 years, Disney World’s cooking teams have taken turns preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the residents of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

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This year, it’s the cast of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Team (Disney Parks Blog)

“They use the same ingredients, the same food that’s in their kitchens to make the traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings,” said Tajiana Ankura Brown, director of external affairs at Walt Disney World Resort. “So you’ll see turkey, stuffing, broth, cranberry sauce, and dessert.”


Ancora-Brown says the team also uses the same ingredients they use in parks and spas to prepare the meal.

The Thanksgiving meal is part of Disney’s VoluntEARing program, in which cast members donate time to help out with the community. Disney matches those time donations, turning the money into grants. Since 2010, Disney says it’s matched $71 million in cast members’ time, plus financial donations.

Disney volunteers have worked for local charities ranging from Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee to Second Harvest Food Bank and the Coalition for the Homeless.

But the pandemic has disrupted personal volunteer efforts.

“We were finding ourselves in a place where our resorts would be temporarily closed and we spent a significant amount of time collecting all the food across the resort and donating it to the Second Harvest Food Bank in Central Florida and then continuing to sort to keep up with any opportunity we had to help in a very crucial way,” said Ancora-Brown.


In 2020, The Walt Disney Company gave $333.1 million in cash and in-kind donations to nonprofit organizations around the world.

However, Disney team members like Keith Drosehn say they are excited to be back in the community and volunteer.

“You know, I’ve done this[Coalition for the Homeless Event]a few times, and it’s just volunteering for me, it just brings me happiness, and I think it brings happiness to everyone around you,” said Druschen, 30. General cast member who attempts to volunteer for at least 200 hours each year.

The Coalition for the Homeless provides shelter for up to 500 men, women and children on any given night, along with meals and case management that help try to get them off the streets.

“What we’re seeing a lot now are first-time homeless people,” said Meredith Beckmayer, vice president of development. “It’s really exciting, and all of our guests from the youngest to the oldest, they all appreciate it and they all love it when they see the culinary team at Disney coming in because they know they’re going to have this really amazing, you know, high quality meal that is delicious and especially on Thanksgiving, when people are in a shelter.”


Druschen says he touches it especially to make children’s faces smile.

“They’re not proud to be in this situation,” Drochen said. “But just knowing that there are people out there who care, especially members of the Disney staff, and the kudos for the chefs to make this delicious meal for them…just to have that extra taste, you know for a holiday that means a lot to them.

Walt Disney World celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with an 18-month celebration. Disney VoluntEARs are participating in the 50 vs 50 Challenge in honor of that. Cast members who volunteer for 50 hours and attend 50 VoluntEARs events will be eligible for prizes. After volunteering for 10 hours, Disney will also give the cast member $100 to donate to the nonprofit of their choice.


Disney also donated $3 million in grants to six nonprofit organizations in Central Florida in honor of the 50th anniversary celebration:

Click here to learn about the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

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