Cleveland church opens door to the needy for Thanksgiving meal

CLEVELAND - Laughter, music and hot food filled the parish hall of Cleveland's St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church Thursday as volunteers served a Thanksgiving meal to more than 300 people in need.

"I love to dance," said 4-year-old Alissah Abernathy who arrived at the church with her older brother and parents for a turkey dinner.

Abernathy quickly took to the dance floor while a singer belted out pop songs during the two-hour event.

"There's something that fills your heart when you see these people that are just wanting love and wanting to see another face and get a meal," said Annette Maund, an adult volunteer who danced with Abernathy to Earth, Wind and Fire's hit song "September." Maund has served holiday meals at the church since she was 13 years old.

St. Augustine began its annual tradition of serving Thanksgiving to the poor and the homeless thirty-five years ago.

"They're grateful for it, they're thankful for it, and they show so much love," said Sister Corita Ambro of St. Augustine.

"It's a wonderful meal. People are so generous," said Anita Psomas, a recipient who is visually impaired. "It's been sort of a rough year. I've had a lot of expenses."

About 60 volunteers participated in the event, serving food, cleaning tables and conversing with guests.

"That's where you really get to feel good is to connect with people," said Petra Platzer of University Heights who is a first-time volunteer. Platzer said she decided to assist at St. Augustine because none of her family is close by to celebrate the holiday.

"My hope for the season is to get on my feet and get my life together," said Eric Martin who is homeless. Martin packaged extra slices of pumpkin pie to eat later.

The church's hunger center serves food to the needy daily and will be serving a holiday meal on Christmas. Donations for their cause may be sent to the St. Augustine Church at 2486 W. 14th St., Cleveland, OH 44113.

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