VALPARAISO — That turkey aroma will be wafting in families' kitchens in Lake and Porter counties this Thanksgiving holiday, thanks to a donation by attorney Kenneth J. Allen and partnerships with local United Way organizations and other community groups. 

Allen donated 1,000 holiday meals that were distributed Saturday at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Porter County South Haven Club and the Wicker Park Social Center in Highland.

“Good people in difficult times deserve help,” Allen said. “It’s always a pleasure to give back to the community. We all have a responsibility to share our blessings.”

Each meal included a turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetable, and choice of apple or pecan pie.

“This is amazing,” Maria Perez, one of 350 recipients at South Haven, said Saturday. “I’m very grateful to have this.”

“This helps a lot of people in the community who can use it,” fellow recipient Jason Frigo said. 

Assisting at South Haven were clubs from Chesterton High School, United Way of Porter County and Portage police. 

Rachel Fredenburg, a member of the Natural Helpers, a Chesterton High School service organization, said the group is "very thankful to be part of something like this."

“We have a very giving community,” said United Way of Porter County Executive Director Kim Olesker*, “and we’re glad to be part of it.”

'A wonderful thing'

At Wicker Park in Highland, Raven Wilson, of Gary, picked up her holiday meal package with her 4-year-old daughter, Alani. Wilson's grandmother, who recently suffered a stroke, can no longer be the family's host for Thanskgiving, Wilson said, so this will be Wilson's first. 

"And with my own little family. This is a wonderful thing," Wilson said. 

Angie Williams, of Lake County United Way, said the park's Social Center was packed in the morning as a rush of families arrived to pick up their Thanksgiving care packages.  

Williams, now vice president of community impact and resources development for the local United Way, said the event is "an emotional one" for her, coming from a low-income family herself. 

"It's very humbling, to see these families being treated with kindness and respect. This is what it means to be united," she said. 

Leroy Fassett, a United Way volunteer from Highland from since 1975, said the holiday giveaway events came together with a small number of volunteers. 

"It amazes me, what goes on behind the scenes, to pull off a day like this," he said. "It's a good way to live, to do what you can to help others."

Times staff writer Lauren Cross contributed to this report. 

*This story has been changed from the original.

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Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.