KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For many, Thanksgiving is a day to cherish time with loved ones and enjoy a good meal. But for some without families or homes, the holiday is a struggle to get through.
For 35 years, Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries has provided a Thanksgiving meal to those in need. The non-profit served lunch to more than 300 people. More than 80 volunteers helped serve the meals. Rothchild Catering offered ham, dressing and sides. The KARM kitchen prepared forty 14-pound turkeys.
According to Todd Gilbert, chief operating manager at KARM, it's more than just a meal.
"It's not even necessarily about the food, certainly not about the football game on the television. It's about spending time with the community, with your people. For hundreds of people, we are their family," he said.
They said on Thanksgiving the heart will find the pathway home. For many in Knoxville, that's KARM.
"I'm thankful for having a place to live right now, KARM," Eugene Cooper said while eating his Thanksgiving meal.
It's a free Thanksgiving meal for those struggling with homelessness, mental illness, addiction or poverty.
"The Thanksgiving season can be difficult, it could be a lonely time and so we get to be that community for lots of people, and a lot of times it starts with a meal -- but it's not just a meal. It's a smiling face willing to sit down and have conversations and sit down with people," Gilbert said.
The folks here are grateful for more than just a hot meal on Turkey Day.
"I'm thankful for the Lord above. Not only that, I'm thankful for a friend who helped me get a job," KARM guest Jonathan Peak said.
Dawn Mack was visiting KARM Thursday and said she's thankful for what's to come.
"I am thankful for my life, literally," she said. "I'm looking forward to positive changes in the future."
For others, they are thankful for their loved ones -- even if they aren't with them on Thanksgiving in person.
"All my family members are passed away. They're all gone," KARM guest Rebecca Reese said.
"I have five or six angels that watch my back every night and make sure I wake up so I can do God's work," a man who goes by "the sheriff," said.
"Before my mother passed away we all got together. I've got five brothers and four sisters. That was the best day I spent with her. She passed away in 2006," he said.
KARM said it could not do what it does every day without support from the East Tennessee community. If you would like to volunteer or donate, click here to learn more.