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      Volunteers spend weeks preparing Thanksgiving feasts

      Tough economic times make this the perfect time for those who can to give back. Many do so by volunteering, often in soup kitchens.

      While feeding the hungry is something these organizations do year-round, preparing thousands of Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings takes weeks of hard work and preparation.

      Tony Cooper, executive director of Jimmie Hale Mission in Birmingham admits making all those meals isn't an easy task.

      "We've cooked 60 turkeys, 22 pans of dressing. You got to have all turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. We'll probably serve around 1,500 plus meals for Thanksgiving," says Cooper. "God blesses us through our donors and our volunteers, so it's really us partnering together that makes our mission possible."The Thanksgiving meals are made possible through donations. But, someone still has to do all the cooking. That's where the long hours and helping hands come into play. James Poe and other volunteers have spent the last week cooking sixty turkeys. For him, getting to see the end result makes it all worth while.

      "It's a hectic time, but it's also very rewarding," Poe says. "We feel blessed to be able to do what we do."

      At the Community Kitchens of Birmingham, Andrea Blackert says more than 600 people will be fed Thanksgiving day between their two locations.

      "It is a large celebration, and it is an opportunity for our neighbors to give back to the community," says Blackert. "These are people who might not have a Thanksgiving meal if it weren't for us."Blackert also reminds us that feeding the needy is a 365 day operation, saying, "What we offer, a basic need of food everyday, is integral to anyone's life."Cooper says meals like this one can have a profound impact. "Homelessness and poverty aren't seasonal issues, they don't take a holiday," says Cooper. "A changed life can begin with something as simple as a meal"

      Both Jimmie Hale Mission and Community Kitchens are still accepting donation.

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