Over an early Thanksgiving dinner with her co-workers, Tashea Young counted her blessings. She was thankful for her mother, and for being able to spend the holiday with her family. And she was thankful for her new job at HomeGoods, where she puts price tags on merchandise.
“I just started,” exclaimed Young, 27, who lives in Dorchester. “I really like it.”
Young, who has developmental disabilities, was among 300 guests at Goodwill’s annual Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday in Boston, a tradition that dates to the 1930s. It was an occasion to spend the holiday among good friends and cherish hard-won accomplishments.
“It’s a time to come together and celebrate,” said Joanne Hilferty, president of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, which helped prepare Young for her job, and countless others for theirs.
The festive get-together drew dozens of volunteers and a host of political leaders, including Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Over a turkey dinner with all the fixings, many guests said they had looked forward to the event for weeks.
“It’s nice to spend time with people,” said Lorenne Sirena, 22, who lives in Roslindale and works at Marshalls.
Her friend Radasia Thomas Williams, 21, agreed. Plus, there was the food, from the mashed potatoes to the pumpkin pie.
Asked about her favorite, Williams grinned and said, “Everything!” and drew a high-five from Sirena.
Sirena said that Goodwill’s programs helped prepare her for jobs in the community and that she enjoys her work at the store. She even hopes to look for a second job, she said.
She planned to spend Thanksgiving with her family and acknowledged that it was pretty great to have two holiday meals. As though on cue, a generous slice of pumpkin pie was set before her.
The Goodwill meal was one of many Thanksgiving events to be held in the Boston area. On Thursday morning, the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter will prepare close to 2,500 holiday dinners, including 1,500 meals for Pine Street’s guests and tenants and another 1,000 for other Boston shelters and groups.
The meals include 2,000 pounds of turkey, 1,100 pounds of mashed potatoes, 425 pounds of stuffing, and 70 gallons of gravy.
Pine Street’s outreach team will also deliver holiday meals to men and women on the streets. Pine Street serves more than 9,000 people each year, providing emergency shelter, permanent housing, and job training.
At Goodwill, the Rev. Gloria White-Hammond delivered a benediction, giving thanks for the love of family and friends and “the richness of this community.”
“We celebrate our differences here today,” she said.
Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries serves more than 8,000 adults in its job training and career services programs, many of whom have barriers to employment.
“It's about connecting people to jobs, connecting people to opportunities,” Walsh said. “Goodwill is such an important part of our city, and I want to thank them for their partnership.”
After the speeches, the band kicked back into gear with Roy Orbison’s classic “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and the crowd flowed onto the dancefloor. Most people fast-danced, but one young couple held each other’s arms as they swayed in the corner.
As the band played “I Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops, a friend approached the couple on the dancefloor but stopped a few feet away. When they saw her, they each extended an arm toward her, bringing her into a small circle.