JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As many of us gathered with family members and friends to give thanks on Thanksgiving Day, thousands of people who are homeless throughout our community didn’t have that opportunity.
Instead, they turned to the Sulzbacher Center for a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.
Sulzbacher volunteers celebrated Thanksgiving Day serving Jacksonville’s hungry and homeless at its two centers: the Downtown Campus for Men and the new Sulzbacher Village: a Community for Women and Families.
Thirty turkeys fed more than 2,000 people in Jacksonville, between the two centers.
“It’s a stepping stone,” said William Griner, a homeless veteran.
Griner said he was a legal clerk and served in the U.S. Army from 1973 to 1978.
The 68-year-old man now stays at the Sulzbacher Campus for Men.
“I receive all kinds of services. I am trying to find an apartment. I am in the VA program. They are helping me to find an apartment and assist me with three months of rent until I get on my feet,” Griner said.
Griner is not alone. Vern said he’s been homeless for four years.
“I would probably be on the street or dead,” Vern said, adding that he’s recently had major health issues.
“I just had open heart surgery about eight weeks ago. I came here. They are helping me out,” Vern said. “They are helping me with housing, food stamps, disability because I really tire easily. The place is really great. This is the first time I had a roof over my head in four years. I couldn’t go back to the street. I would never have survived out there. The worst pain in the world is hunger pain, trust me, I know.”
Serving people like Vern and Griner were volunteers, all led by Sulzbacher Executive Chef Calvin Matthew.
“It means everything,” Matthew said. “I really enjoy what I do. I really enjoy serving people. It’s a great fit. It’s not even a job. It’s a service, and I really enjoy what I do.”