MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While Minnesotans are finalizing their Thanksgiving menus, many families are struggling just to put food on the table.

On Monday, the nonprofit Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities hosted the first day of its annual Thanksgiving meal distribution. The event donates all of the traditional Thanksgiving fixings to families in need. What that means to families this holiday season is that much more.

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There was enough food at the distribution point to feed 20,000 people, being sent home to those who may not always have enough food to go around.

“We know that hope often begins with a meal and we want to make sure every family this holiday has a meal,” Abigail Holtz said.

Turkey, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy — 4,000 bags of the traditional fixings are packaged up and put into cars, no questions asked. Families did have to preregister online to pick up their meals. The distribution event will continue one more day Tuesday.

Hope Green drove up to pick up her Thanksgiving dinner. She’ll be sharing it with her children and grandchildren.

“It will mean a lot to be together and to have fun, eat together, laugh together,” she said.

COVID-19 has also made the holidays more difficult for those families facing job losses, mental health struggles, drug and alcohol addictions. More than 150 volunteers are on hand to make sure people have one less stress.

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Union Gospel Mission preorders their turkeys for this event in February. The event’s theme this year is to love someone who needs help.

Green encouraged everyone to find time to volunteer so that love goes beyond the holiday season.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan was at Second Harvest Heartland in Brooklyn Park Monday.

After touring the facility she discussed the struggles her family went through when she was a child.

“My family grew up with SNAP or back in the day we called it food stamps, I was the kid with the different color lunch ticket. We utilized food shelves and our community and that’s what we do as Minnesotans, when folks need a little help we step up and provide it and now I get the chance to pay that forward every single day, it’s who we are, it’s what we do,” Flanagan said.

If you would like to help out or make a donation to Second Harvest, click here.

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Kate Raddatz