Las Vegas Sun

October 13, 2015

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Group striving to make sure everyone gets a Thanksgiving


Aida Ahmed

Volunteers hand out boxes filled with a turkey, canned foods and a pumpkin pie at the Catholic Charities giveaway Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.

Catholic Charities Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway

Thousands of men and women wait in line for turkeys, canned foods and pies at the Catholic Charities turkey box giveaway Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

  • Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada is seeking donations for the holidays. Visit the group's website for a list of needs.
  • The organization is providing Thanksgiving meals Tuesday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 6 p.m., and Thursday, Nov. 24, from 9 to 11 a.m. The events are free and open to anyone.

Carol Luke had nowhere to turn for Thanksgiving dinner.

A Las Vegas local for 20 years, Luke said she drove semi trucks and buses for most of her life before a disability forced her to give up working in 2003. Her pride injured, she cried the first time she had to apply for government assistance and at the first Christmas she sought donated toys for her children.

“It took me a while to swallow my pride to go get help,” said Luke, who was getting her Thanksgiving meal squared away with assistance from Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. The organization spent Saturday providing the ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner to people who had signed up for them.

A young volunteer helped pack a few things into the back of Luke's small red Chevy: a 10-pound turkey, a bag filled with canned vegetables and a pumpkin pie donated from Smith’s.

Students from Bishop Gorman High School and other local groups helped pack and hand out food boxes, wishing people in line a Happy Thanksgiving. A “thank you” or “God bless you” could be heard in return every couple of seconds.

Luke calls it a blessing for her and her three teenage daughters.

Catholic Charities' annual event drew more than 3,200 Las Vegans to its doors Saturday morning, many of them in the same predicament as Luke.

“Last year we gave out about 2,500 turkeys, so we’re seeing a significant increase,” Catholic Charities vice president Phillip Hollon said. “Our lines are all around the property. That just shows the demand we see in Southern Nevada right now.”

The growing line outside the Catholic Charities building was indeed filled with an array of faces — parents, children, young couples and senior citizens.

“They’re paying their mortgage or their rent, electric bill — and we’re helping them with food. This is a very special time where we can provide a Thanksgiving feast to them,” Hollon said.

Catholic Charities bought the turkeys and canned goods with money from the community and Smith’s donated 5,000 pumpkin pies.

“All this is through the generosity of the community,” Hollon said as donations continued to trickle in.

Junaue Orr didn’t expect to be waiting in line for food donations. A recent transplant from the East Coast, Orr said he came for a job that ended up falling through. Now he works as a Michael Jackson impersonator in a lounge at Mandalay Bay.

“I just moved here and I kind of got low on my luck,” said Orr. “I’m struggling to try and find a job. I got a little job at Mandalay Bay singing but it don’t make a lot of money. I sing, but not every day.”

An appreciative smile could be seen on the faces of the people who, with food in their hands, headed home.

The help, no matter how small it may seem, really goes a long way for Luke, whose faith was restored when she learned to accept it.

“I know then that God was looking out for me,” said Luke.

The food boxes are available to people who arranged to get vouchers from Catholic Charities. People with turkey vouchers can pick up their box Monday through Wednesday at the Catholic Charities building at 1501 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

The organization is also providing Thanksgiving meals Tuesday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 6 p.m., and Thursday, Nov. 24, from 9 to 11 a.m. The events are free and open to anyone.

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