Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The economy continues to take a toll on families in the Twin Cities and Meals on Wheels is helping a record number of people this year with Thanksgiving dinner.
The annual event took place at Cretin Derham Hall in St. Paul from 4:00 – 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning.
The cafeteria was wall to wall with hundreds of volunteers dishing up Thanksgiving meals.
“My parents are at home asleep,” said Katie Hartnett is a sophomore in high school.
She and her brothers Michael and Jimmy decided to come on their own.
“We’ve been doing this about 4 years now,” she said. “We just like making a difference and making someone’s day better. It’s a nice feeling.”
This year volunteers like Katie are helping a record number of families — 18,400 people in the community. It’s about a thousand more than the group planned for.
While they had to scramble to get more food, there was no shortage of volunteers.
“A lot of young people — way more than usual. We got lines out the door. It’s a great problem to have,” said one of the organizers Luke Aslesen.
Aslesen said they received so much help, people waited in line an hour to deliver one box of food.
“It shows me a lot about the goodness of people. It sounds cliché and kind of corny but it really is the fact that people want to be up at 5 o’clock in the morning serving other people,” he said. “People are happy to do it and they keep coming back.”
There were a lot of familiar faces and some new ones, like the swim team from Gustavus Adolphus College.
“It’s all about giving back to the community,” said swimmer Laura Drake, who helped out in the past and brought along three of her fellow swimmers this year.
It’s a way for volunteers to give thanks for their blessings.
“I am thankful for my family and to have a meal on my table every day,” said Katie.
She says it’s a tradition she won’t miss out on, even if her parents sleep in.