This is a blessing: “The Heart of Florida United Way is handing out 1,800 Thanksgiving meals

This is a blessing: “The Heart of Florida United Way is handing out 1,800 Thanksgiving meals

Orlando, Florida. Heart of Florida United Way is making sure struggling families across Central Florida have a Thanksgiving feast this year.

The nonprofit held its third annual Thanksgiving Project on Saturday. Volunteers have distributed 1,800 Thanksgiving meal kits to families in Orange, Ossola and Seminole counties.

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More than 18,000 pounds of Thanksgiving meals were collected and distributed by nearly 600 volunteers.

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President and CEO Jeff Hayward said families were on their way home with everything they needed for the holiday.

“We include the skillet, stuffing, pie, fries, and everything you need to make your family’s Thanksgiving meal,” Hayward said.

Hayward said the need is still great after more than 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, he adds, there is a waiting list for families hoping to take the free meals home.

“We know the need has grown. We know it is still there. Not everyone has returned to work yet and that is an indication of the waiting list.

Hayward adds that this year it’s been tough to get some Thanksgiving staples.

“We used to serve pumpkin pies. This year we had to go to an apple cobbler, and I myself am a fan of apple pie, but it was a supply and demand issue. We couldn’t get pumpkin pies,” he said.

It’s not just supplies. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of Thanksgiving holidays is higher. The average price is up 14% from last year. Among the increases include turkey, which rose 24%, pumpkin pie mix, which rose 7%, and sweet potatoes, which rose 4%.

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For families, many said they were grateful for the free meals, including Elizabeth Lyons. She said it’s been a tough year and this food will help bring her family together for the holidays.

“That’s a blessing, like you guys don’t understand how much this means. I’m trying not to cry,” Lyons said. “Thank you very much. You guys are just amazing! “

Click here for more information on the Heart of Florida United Way.

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