(CBS) — The line begins at dawn outside the Chosen Tabernacle Food Pantry, 4310 S. Champlain Avenue on Chicago’s South Side.
“I’ve been here since 7,” a woman name Vera, who was first in line, tells WBBM. “I brought two bags. I’m prepared.”
Everyone in line comes prepared. Many bring empty bags and suitcases to be filled with Thanksgiving food.
“It helps a lot. I’m retired on a fixed income. I appreciate this. They don’t have to do this,” Vera says.
Pastor Sandra Gillespie gathers her volunteers for a quick prayer before they open the doors at 1 p.m.
“We thank you for the opportunity to serve, we thank you for all this good,” she says.
Every Tuesday, the church offers food donation, but this week is extra busy.
“Today we have turkeys, hams, white potatoes, candied yam potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, all kinds of vegetables, even cereal because they need to eat past Thursday,” Gillespie says.
The food pantry gets about 200 people a week on a regular basis but Thanksgiving week is always busier.
“We’ll easily give away food to more than 150 people today, probably more than that. Even when I run out of turkeys and hams, I’ve got chickens,” Gillespie says, laughing.
Lilly Townsend and her aunt are some of the first to fill their bags.
“We got some potatoes, bread, cabbage. This is a blessing. It helps supplement what we get from the stores,” says Townsend, who is hosting six people for Thanksgiving this year.
“My cousin is going to cook the bird. I’ll do the stuffing and the cabbage and potatoes. This is a huge help,” she says.
“I live in this neighborhood,” says Patricia Jackson, who arrived at 8 a.m. “I want to thank everybody for this. I come every year. I appreciate this so much.”
Gillespie says this is a big day for many needy families in the area.
“You’ll see tears in some women’s eyes because this is the only meal that they are going to be able to feed their families with. Even some of the brothers, believe it or not — 50 percent of our clients are men, so they are exuberant.”
The food was donated by the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which will distribute more than 128,000 pounds of turkey this week alone.
“It’s so fulfilling to me. The church has a responsibility to aid in meeting the needs of our community, especially this time of year,” Gillespie says.