As they handed out hundreds of turkey plates, each with all the fixings, volunteers at the annual Bridge House / Grace House Thanksgiving dinner described Thursday morning as their chance to give back.
“I’ve done this for a few years,” said volunteer Dat Nguyen from the serving line. He added, “My family lives all over the country, so this is my time to help out.”
More than 175 volunteers signed in at the Camp Street facility, not only serving food but also distributing clothing and toiletries, said Joe Pitman, the recovery program’s assistant income development director. They served between 400 and 500 homeless people or those just in need of a hot Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, estimated Income Development Director Wayne Olivio.
Bridge House serves a community meal three times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and a special event called Christmas in July. While many places around New Orleans open their doors for a Thanksgiving meal, on Christmas between 600 and 1,000 people are expected.
“We do it because, of course, it is a nice thing to do,” said Olivio, but added, “We also do it to raise awareness.”
“We are a recovery program and we want people to know that we are here.”
Bridge House can host 84 men in its recovery program at its Earhart Boulevard location and 70 women between its two Grace House locations in Uptown, Olivio said.
Marta Jewson is a freelance reporter and photographer based in New Orleans.