Florida businessman provides free Thanksgiving meals to more than 15,000 people

Credit: Cox Media Group

Credit: Cox Media Group

A Florida businessman is providing free Thanksgiving meals to more than 15,000 people at the Salvation Army on Thursday.

For 27 years, Eric Holm has hosted the event. He said he created the Helpings from the Heart program because he knows what it's like to go hungry on the holidays.

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Holm said he grew up poor and bused tables at a restaurant where his single mom worked as a waitress to support their family of six. On Thanksgiving, the family ate at the Salvation Army.

With help from Holm's Helpings from the Heart program, more than 1,000 volunteers will prepare, serve and deliver 20,000 free meals.

Jason Gronlund, a professional chef, has overseen the event for more than 25 years. He's worked with hundreds of volunteers to prepare the event and make sure thousands of people will have a Thanksgiving meal.

"Everything from putting the flowers on the tables to making sure the food is perfect," Gronlund said.

A group of volunteers who live in Parramore are involved in a group called TGI. They said giving back to the community has a deep meaning for many of them.

"Some of the girls live in this area, so they pass by some of the residents who will be here. They pass by some of the homeless population, and we want to make sure our girls are continually giving back to the community," said Michelle Hamilton.

Organizers said they have served over 500,000 meals through the "Helpings from the Heart" program since it began in 1992.

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