Chicago businesses serve holiday meals

November 26, 2009 (CHICAGO) A bounty of good food was served up today at the Rainbow Push Headquarters on the city's South Side.

The coalition partnered with Gibson's Bar and Steakhouse to provide Thanksgiving dinner to 400 needy children and their families.

Push officials say many of them are homeless Chicago Public School students.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was on hand to offer his support on this thanksgiving holiday.

"Just because you're homeless does not mean that you're helpless. Wherever there's life, there's hope. And where there's hope there's infinite possibility," Jackson said.

Chicago Public School records show there are more than 10,000 homeless public school students in Chicago.

More than 700 people showed up for thanksgiving dinner at Chicago's Haymarket Center in the West Loop.

Volunteers served up plenty of turkey and all the trimmings.

Haymarket Center is known for helping people with alcoholism and other substance abuse.

The center also hosts a number of children who live with their parents in treatment programs. On the city's north side, one restaurant opened for people who didn't have a place to go on Thanksgiving Day.

That Little Mexican Cafe is located on Bryn Mawr and Winthrop in the Edgewater neighborhood.

The staff served 400 meals to people referred by several Chicago social service agencies.

The restaurant owner is a Mexican immigrant who says it's his way of saying thanks for all the goodness he has received in America.

On the city's West Side, Wallace's Catfish Corner served up a special Thanksgiving dinner.

Plates were piled high with mac and cheese, stuffing and collard greens.

The restaurant opens its door every year for people living at homeless shelters or in the neighborhood.

Employees say it's their way of giving back to the community.

"We've been blessed, and Thanksgiving is about giving. And when we look at the community as a whole, when we can make a difference as to providing a meal it goes a long way," said Wallace Davis III, Wallace's Catfish Corner.

Wallace's catfish corner has been providing thanksgiving dinner for needy for 17 years.

A member of the Chicago Bears helped some children enjoy a Thanksgiving feast on the city's South Side.

Defensive lineman Israel Idonije went to work filling plates with turkey and all the trimmings.

He heads a foundation that provides services for families in disadvantaged communities.

The Salvation Army is serving up more than 2200 holiday meals to Chicagoans in need.

It's been a busy day at the Harbor Light Center on West Monroe where hundreds of people enjoyed turkey and all the trimmings.

The center helps people trying to beat addictions.

Guests appreciated the holiday feast and organizers were pleased to help them.

"Having places that you can get in off the streets for a little while and maybe get warm, get dry, have a nice thanksgiving dinner is a tremendous opportunity," said Capt. Merrill Powers, Harbor Light Center.

"I just like to volunteer. I like to help, I like to, you know, give back," Leneia Vallentine said.

The Salvation Army has centers across the Chicago area hosting holiday events all day.

On a related note, food pantries say they're seeing the greatest demand in years. They say many first-time visitors are walking through the doors.

Experts say the reasons are layoffs and reduced wages for millions of Americans.

The national unemployment rate stands at 10.2 percent.

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