CHICAGO (CBS) — This Thanksgiving is certainly different than last – when the pandemic raged without widespread vaccine availability, keeping many families separated.

With a vaccine, we know more of you watching and reading were gathered with loved ones – but one thing hasn’t changed. There is still great need.

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As CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported Thursday night, the Salvation Army took on its mission to address that need – with an effort to serve thousands of meals this holiday.

Ludovia Edmond left the Salvation Army center with bags’ worth of food with rolls, yams, and turkey – enough for three people. She didn’t think she was hosting this Thanksgiving.

“Usually, I go to my family’s house, you know, so this is my first time not going anywhere,” Edmond said.

But last minute, her grandkids asked to stop by.

“I didn’t have anything to cook for them or myself really, so I’m grateful,” she said.

Edmond will have all the fixings, thanks to the Salvation Army.

“I was grateful that I was able to come over here to the Salvation Army, and they gave me some food for Thanksgiving,” she said.

There was plenty of it at the Salvation Army Freedom Center, at 825 N. Christiana Ave. in Humboldt Park. They partnered with hospitality group Levy to make 900 pounds of turkey, 150 pounds of stuffing, 280 pounds of green beans and sweet potatoes, and 360 pounds of mashed potatoes.

And don’t worry – there’s gravy too.

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“This is the big one for us,” said Salvation Army Capt. Nikki Hughes. “We’ll anticipate about 2,500 meals served.”

And each order came piping hot, and was packed with COVID safety in mind as it was loaded up and handed off.

Beyond the people picking up, the Salvation Army is serving hundreds more that are part of its recovery program and homeless shelter. It also put hot food on trucks and bringing it into neighborhoods, with the hope of feeding as many people as possible.

Brook Pfaender is a volunteer who has been on the other side of this buffet.

“I was a resident here at Harbor Light Center,” he said. “I found recovery here…”

Pfaender knows the impact of a warm meal.

“I didn’t want to necessarily cook for myself or I didn’t want to be a part of the family, and having people who do this out of the warmth of their heart – it makes me feel really grateful,” he said.

That gratitude was shared by people like Edmond, as they left with full bags of food and a full heart.

“This is a blessing,” she said. “This is like, even better.”

From one holiday to the next, The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign is already underway ahead of the Christmas season.

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The Red Kettle campaign is still looking for volunteers to bell ring. If you’d like to help out, follow this link.

Marie Saavedra