Cam Sanchez, an 18-year-old Lansing resident, wants to give back to his community this Thanksgiving.
Sanchez, the founder of We Are Lansing, said his nonprofit organization is hosting its first free Thanksgiving dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday at First United Methodist Church, 18420 Burnham Ave., Lansing, Illinois.
"The idea for me came from the little kid that didn't have a lot of things growing up," Sanchez said.
Sanchez and his group isn't alone with their desire to reach out to help others this holiday.
There are a number of churches, restaurants and organizations holding free Thanksgiving dinners throughout the area or offering assistance in numerous ways.
Most events, like the Lansing dinner, encourage those in their communities to come together not only to partake in a meal but to get together in a spirit of celebration and thankfulness.
"This is literally just about fellowship. Just come and sit together," Sanchez said.
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The Thanksgiveaway dinner is open to anyone and is on a first come, first serve basis, Sanchez said.
The event is scheduled to be held outside in the church parking lot but there are provisions to sit inside depending on the weather.
The menu includes turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, cabbage, dressing, cornbread, peach cobbler and other desserts.
Sanchez is still looking for donations from individuals and businesses to cover the cost.
For more information on We Are Lansing, call 708-551-5854 or go to the organization's Facebook page.
Here is a list of restaurants, churches and nonprofits offering or providing free Thanksgiving dinners throughout the area. Although the majority of the dinners are being held on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, there are exceptions including some of the free meals hosted on Tuesday and Wednesday.
East Chicago: The Salvation Army in Lake County, in a partnership with Ameristar Casino, is holding a drive-thru Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday at the East Chicago Community Center, 513 W. Chicago Ave., from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Crown Point: Saints Peter and Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church, 9660 Broadway, is hosting a Thanksgiving luncheon free of charge from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday.
The dinner is a donation by members Steve and Vera Georiefski, Vasko Georgiefski, Riste Georgiefski and Mara Anguiano and their families.
The event is open to all church members and anyone in the community. Please contact the church office and provide a count of how many individuals will be attending. The phone number at the church is 219-662-9114.
Gary: The Economic Development Committee of Gary Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., will host its drive-by Thanksgiving dinner from 11 to 2 p.m. on Thursday at St. Timothy Community Church, 1600 W. 25th Ave. The event is free and open to the public.
Members of Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Merrillville prepared and donated the 240 meals to the Gary site.
Hobart: Jubilee Worship Center, 415 N. Hobart Road, is hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner from 2 to 6 p.m. on Thursday. The event is open to the public and no reservations are necessary.
The menu will include turkey and ham and a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, according to Luis Mendoza, coordinator of the event.
LaPorte: The Pax Center, 605 Washington St., will sponsor a free Thanksgiving dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at the State Street Community Church, 209 State St.
The dinner is dine-in or carryout (person must be present) and includes a traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings.
Call 219-575-7842 for more information.
Michigan City: The Salvation Army at 1201 Franklin St. is hosting a hot Thanksgiving meal Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. People may also pick up a curbside meal, said Jenilee Peterson, development director.
Last year, Peterson said, 400 meals were served, all curbside.
Portage: Portage First United Methodist Church’s monthly fellowship dinner occurs Wednesday. Held in the church’s fellowship hall at 2637 McCool Rd., the dinner runs 4:30-6 p.m.
Porter and LaPorte counties: The American Veterans Motorcycle Association (AVMRA) is reaching out to area veterans who need any kind of assistance, including help paying for a Thanksgiving dinner.
Call AVMRA Commander Dustin Fitch at 361-633-8315 for assistance.
St. John: At St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, parishioners are preparing to deliver 1,600 meals in time for Thanksgiving.
As Lynda Hemmerling, a pastoral assistant at SJE, explained, “We prep the full meals the day before thanks to parishioner Andy Kaptur, who does catering out of the St. Michael Archangel Serbian Social Center in Lansing. He subsidizes the entire meal, which includes turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and dessert. He also pays for the containers. We prepare individual meals and meals for full families.”
Hemmerling said that total includes 200 meals to the Missionaries of Charity in Gary.
“We use Kaptur's space for prep and storage. He even donates time from some of his employees to help,” Hemmerling said.
Kaptur also prepares dozens of routes for volunteer drivers to follow. After receiving routes and phone numbers of recipients, drivers call their families the week or so before to touch base and confirm the upcoming deliveries.
The 55 volunteer drivers include non-parishioners, including members of St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville and St. Thomas More in Munster, Hemmerling said. Drivers range from those in their 20s to people in their 70s.
“We have been doing this for years, and the ministry continues to grow,” Hemmerling commented.
- Also, the St. John Township Trustee’s office is distributing 50 turkeys and food baskets to residents who have applied for assistance. In the past, that office has worked with local churches to identify people and families in need.
Whiting: Center Lounge and Restaurant, 1312 119th St., in Whiting will be offering free Thanksgiving Day dinners for anyone, no restrictions. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursday. Meals include turkey and ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, dressing and rolls.
Participants can dine-in or carry out this year, Karen Holmes said.
Only call if you are picking up meals to deliver to shut-ins.
The restaurant's numbers are 219-659-4080 or 219-659-9566.
Winfield: The Church of the Four Seasons, 9100 E. 109th Ave. is inviting anyone in the community to dine in or carry out starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
A traditional turkey with sides will be served.
Call 219-663-7803 or go to the church Facebook website for more information.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect no event will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Valparaiso or at Willowcreek Middle School in Portage.