FELLSMERE — Nearly 400 families will be able to put turkeys or chickens on the tables come Thursday due to the generosity of individuals and organizations alike, who responded to Operation Hope's call for help when all they had was 150 turkeys.
"I'm very happy to be able to help 300-plus families," Operation Hope President Jesse Zermeno said. Though he expressed a desire to help more, he said they did the best they could.
"I feel satisfied," he said.
Just moments before hundreds of families were allowed to enter the staging area for the Thanksgiving giveaway, volunteers announced the final count of the turkeys and chickens - 391, up from the 323 counted at 3 p.m.
For Marcus Prada, the turkey giveaway was a blessing for his family.
"It will make sure my family has a good meal," Prada said while waiting for his number to called for the line. Without Operation Hope, he said he didn't know what his "pretty big family" would have done for the special celebration.
Several children played amongst themselves while parents and grandparents stood in line. They skipped rope and challenged each other to Hula Hoop contests.
Inside the large building where the turkeys were kept, stood one long line of tables loaded full of beverages, canned peas, green beans and corn, canned yams and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, boxes of instant mashed potatoes, cans and jars of gravy, and boxes of stuffing - all the traditional fixing that are served alongside the turkey.
Another long line tables stood behind it, equally laden with fruits and vegetables, bags on bread and dinner rolls and pastries to round out the Thanksgiving Day feast.
Leslie Gay, who brought three of her four children with her to Operation Hope, said they came out to help supplement their Thanksgiving.
"It works," Gay said, "especially when you don't have work."
She expects 20 family members to share the meal, which would have been a bigger struggle if not for the Thanksgiving giveaway.
"Everybody would still have had fun," Gay said, even if there weren't as much food to go around.
Helping with the giveaway were several organizations, including the Sebastian River High School Hammerheads Post 189 traveling baseball team and the Vero Beach Post 39 American Legion baseball team.
Zermeno said the Thanksgiving event would not have been possible if not for the generosity and support of the Vero Beach Presbyterian Church, the Satellite Beach Presbyterian Church, the Ft. Pierce Food Bank, Publix and Walmart, and various individuals who donated either turkeys and chickens or funds to help pay for more.
With the Thanksgiving giveaway complete, Zermeno is now shifting gears for the Christmas event, which will be held Dec. 18 beginning at noon. Toys will be handed out for children ages infant to 10.
To register for the Christmas event or to find out how to contribute, call Operation Hope at (772) 571-0003.