Thanksgiving meal recipients thankful to Mandarin Food Bank

Struggling families wait hours for giveaway

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even though some indicators show that the economy is slightly improving, there are a lot of families still going through tough times.

Nowhere was that more evident than outside one Jacksonville food bank Monday, where people waited for hours to get their Thanksgiving meal.

In the dark of the early morning hours, they brought chairs and bundled up against the cold.

"We've been here since 5 (a.m.)," food bank client Kristina Grigoryeva said.

That's four hours before the Mandarin Food Bank started handing out a turkey and the trimmings.

For Grigoryeva, the food is a blessing to her and her family of six.

"I'm proud to be in America and I'm proud to be a citizen," she said. "And thank you, even though we're having this hard time, but again thanks to God that we can have this opportunity that we can have a good Thanksgiving."

This is the 22nd year the Mandarin Food Bank has been giving Thanksgiving dinners to families in need. This year, though, it almost didn't happen.

A week and a half ago, the food bank only had five turkeys in its freezers and more than 400 people registered to receive one.

When word got out, the community showed its support.

"One person brought 10 turkeys herself. One office brought in 50 turkeys," food bank volunteer organizer Bonnie McNulty said. "It just snowballed. It's wonderful."

Annette Brown thinks it's great, too. She's retired and supports her disabled son. Brown said need knows no boundaries.

"They think, 'Aw, you're in Mandarin, you don't need any help,'" Brown said. "Everyone needs help. It's the economy, and we're all struggling through it. Social Security is what I'm on, but it only goes so far."

And this year once again, the Mandarin Food Bank managed to stretch its resources and stretch the joy some families will feel this holiday season.

"What they're doing here is a blessing," one recipient said.