Salvation Army, Rainbow PUSH Coalition provide Thanksgiving meals to Chicago families in need

ABC7 helps meal drive thru pickup at La Rabida Children's Hospital

Friday, November 24, 2023
Thanksgiving meals served to Chicago migrants
Many in need were served meals this Thanksgiving, including some Chicago migrants.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local organizations offered Thanksgiving meals to those in need in Chicago Thursday.

The Salvation Army served up a hot Thanksgiving meal and a smile to the unhoused on Chicago's West Side. The Salvation Army's Warren Peeler recalled his own days on the street.

"I'd been out on the street ever since '98," Peeler said. "Homeless, sleeping in abandoned buildings, underneath a car to keep warm, until I met the Salvation Army back in 2000. And it was a whole way of life for me because I was scared and I didn't know where I was going to go, I didn't want to talk to people because I was mad at you all the time even though I didn't even know you."

Helping those who are where he once was is what keeps Warren going. He takes a food truck on a regular route every weekday from north to south, serving hot soup and crackers. That is what he's grateful for.

"Just another day to help somebody out that needs help," Peeler said. "And just another day to see the sun rise. I got up this morning because I had something to do, and that was to be on this unit."

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Feeding and sheltering those in need is the basic tenet of the Salvation Army's mission. This year, with the unhoused, the migrant crisis and increasing prices, they're busier than ever.

"The last two weeks we've roughly been serving families coming in every single day in for pantry and trying to get food for Thanksgiving, and now we're able to dive right into," Salvation Army Freedom Center captain Nikki Hughes said.

The Salvation Army recently hosted an event sponsored by the Chicago Bear to feed migrant families.

Over 2,500 Thanksgiving meals are being served up Thursday by the Salvation Army's soldiers, taking place at their mobile unit and at the Humboldt Park Freedom Center. People from the communities could either pick up a meal to go or be served by volunteers from Chicagoland's Sikh Community.

"Different faiths can do a lot more good things for the community when they join in hand in hand," said Sarwan Singh Bolina with the Sikh Community of Chicagoland. "We don't need to fight with anybody. We don't need to create divisiveness. We are living in this world now."

The Salvation Army isn't done yet. They are still collecting clothes and toys for their Christmas Angel Tree List, which so far numbers more than 400 children. The more they collect, the more children they can help during December holidays.

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The Rainbow PUSH Coalition served hundreds of families Thursday to make sure no one went without a hot meal.

Also on Thursday, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition served hundreds of families to make sure no one went without a hot meal.

Over 500 families were given Thanksgiving meals at the event.

It was a special moment for a family who said they know what it's like to be in need of a meal, and now they are the ones serving them.

Volunteer Lavania Greene, 16, said it was not just about packing up gift bags for struggling families, but it was a chance to take in where she's been and where she is now.

"Most people can't eat like us and stuff," Greene said.

She said she remember what it was like when her family struggled to have their own Thanksgiving meals.

"Most kids like us, some people don't have a family like us and most people can't sleep," Greene said. "They're sleeping outside. They don't have a roof over their head."

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Greene's legal guardian Corrine Terrell said she, herself, grew up in the foster care system, and now as a foster parent and stepmom to nine kids, she said she wanted to make a difference as an adult.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition said the family is a testament to the ongoing mission they are determined to achieved.

"We're grateful that God has blessed us to be a blessing," said Rev. Dr. Janette Wilson with the Rainbow Push Coalition. "But we don't want to just serve you, we want to change the policies that leave people hungry and homeless."

For Terrell, achieving that mission is one word of encouragement at a time to every family that walks through the door.

"Tell them to keep their faith and stay strong," Terrell said. "God is not going to put too much on you that you can't bear."

ABC7 Chicago was proud to help those in need at La Rabida Children's Hospital, helping hand out turkeys at a drive-thru pickup.

For some Chicago-area migrants, Thursday was their first Thanksgiving in the United States.

"We want to welcome you and tell you, first of all, about what Thanksgiving is in America," Pastor Corey Brooks said. "Tonight's food is more what we call soul food."

Brook's church on the South Side welcomed a festive feast, somewhat reflective of history.

"The founders who came to a place and started a new country - a lot like these migrants are trying to do. This is a fresh start for them, a fresh opportunity, and what better place to do it than in America?" Brooks said.

The kitchen was steaming for another migrant family's first holiday dinner in Buffalo Grove together.

"Well for us it's a day to celebrate, a day to get together with family, have a family reunion with those who are now with us," Deibi Ropero said.

ABC7 Chicago was proud to help those in need at La Rabida Children's Hospital.

Crews handed out turkeys in a drive thru at the South Side hospital.

Some of the recipients were parents whose children are patients in the hospital.

Normally the hospital serves a Thanksgiving meal inside, but with COVID and rising RSV rates, the drive thru provided an alternative way to still help for the holiday.