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Judeo-Christian Outreach Center's annual Thanksgiving dinner serves reminders to be kind

The Judeo-Christian Outreach Center teamed up again with State Senator Bill DeSteph to serve meals to hundreds of people and first responders this Thanksgiving.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Volunteers crafted pies and basted turkeys before they fired up the ovens at the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center kitchen early Thursday morning. 

Last year, the center (along with one of the meal organizers, State Senator Bill DeSteph), had to box up all the meals and hand them out to people individually to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. Executive Director of JCOC, Todd Walker, says it just didn't feel the same.

"Last year, we had to have all of our meals to-go," said Walker. "It's what we had to do."

Walker said he missed the conversations everyone would have sitting around a table together with a warm meal. This year, they finally got to serve Thanksgiving to the community, just like a family.

"We like to say food is love, so it gives us an opportunity to love on them and kind of help them forget about some of the things they're dealing with right now," Walker said.

DeSteph and his family organize the big meal every year to hand out plates to first responders and people in need. He said they make enough food for about 250 to 400 meals, and the dinner hosts up to 100 people.

He said he loves seeing people smile because of a warm meal.

"The people is why I do it," said DeSteph as he crafted pumpkin pies with his mother, who also volunteered, "This is my Thanksgiving, this is my Christmas Eve... it makes the season for me."

Walker said Thanksgiving dinner doesn't just provide good food. He says it brings along the chance to offer a helping hand to those who may need it, especially during a time when many people are struggling with food insecurity.

"We can provide them with resources to help address some of the other issues they may have today," Walker explained. "So, it really is an opportunity to really give back to the community."

The Judeo-Christian Outreach Center was set to serve meals from noon until around 2 p.m. Thursday.

JCOC offers meals year-round to anyone who needs them, and offers resources to people who may be struggling financially or need help finding a home.

You can learn how to access these resources or how to volunteer on the JCOC website.