A live band played holiday tunes as hundreds of people ate, sang, and boogied Wednesday during the annual Thanks-For-Giving event hosted by Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries.
Turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and apple cider were among the dishes served to the 300 people who attended, who were participants in Goodwill’s job training and day habilitation programs in Boston and Salem.
The event began at 11:30 a.m. and ran until 1 p.m. at 1010 Harrison Ave. in Boston.
“Every day, we work with people who face barriers to employment, whether it’s a disability, transitioning off welfare, or homelessness, and we help them go to work,” said Joanne Hilferty, Goodwill president and chief executive. “This is the day we come together to celebrate all they’ve accomplished in the last year.”
Hilferty said 275 turkeys were donated by Willow Tree Farm for Goodwill’s events this week, which also included a food basket giveaway Tuesday. Fifty-five turkeys were cooked and served Wednesday.
Eighty-five volunteers helped prepare and serve food. Elected officials, including Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, US Senator Ed Markey, and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, pitched in.
“This organization has always wrapped its arms around people that are in need,” Walsh told the crowd. “Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that allows you the opportunity to come and serve somebody else. I want to thank you because my heart is filled with gratitude today because of the great work that Goodwill does.”
People were allowed as many servings as they wanted, to celebrate “what Thanksgiving is all about,” said Matt O’ Malley, a Boston city councilor, who helped prepare the food.
“If you just look around the room, you’ll see such amazing people,” O’Malley said. “I am truly honored to play a very small role in helping today’s celebration go off as well as possible.”
One program participant, Belmiro Silva, 35, said he enjoyed the food Wednesday, especially the turkey. He has been a member of the day habilitation program for 10 years, and said he was grateful for all the work Goodwill does for him.
Silva said his program helps him with life skills and medical needs.
Gross greeted fellow officials and citizens. He said he had known many of the program participants for years, and seen them go through ups and downs.
“It’s great to be here sharing what Thanksgiving really means: thanks for what you have and pass that along to others,” Gross said. “It goes along with my job which is to protect and serve. So I’ll be serving today, too,” said Gross, who was handing out plates to the hungry.
Markey, before busting some moves to “Johnny B. Goode,” said Thanksgiving was the most special day of the year for him and that no one celebrated it better than Goodwill.
“You know better than me that you can’t make America great again by making America hate again,” Markey told the crowd. “You have to bring everyone together to make one big family, and that’s what you here at Goodwill do.”Katie Camero can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @camerokt_.