‘I hope they feel loved’: Home-cooked meals help feed more than 1,000 people in St. Johns County

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A grassroots effort that started with one school counselor is now feeding more than 1,000 people and 180 families on Thanksgiving in St. Johns County.

“Amazing. Grateful. Couldn’t have done this without all the help this year,” said Carly Gordon, who has been working as a school counselor at RJ Murray Middle School for the past five years.

She and her 7-year-old daughter, Lottie Gordon wanted to provide home-cooked meals for families beyond the school district.

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’I think it’s important for everyone to have a meal,” Lottie said.

”This year we decided, let’s do every one!” Carly added.

So, Thanksgiving morning at RJ Murray Middle School was crunch time for hundreds of volunteers packing the meals that will feed more than 1,000 people. The volunteers come from different organizations across the county.

“The (St. Johns County) Sheriff’s department partnered up with me right away,” Carly pointed out. “They have been with me every step of the way, from buying the food.”

“This is about helping people in need and doing the right thing,” said St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick, who was helping at the meal distribution.

Support also came in the form of donations from Flagler Care Connect + BRAVE, Epic-Cure, Publix, business owners, and churches.

“Publix donated over 200 pies,” Carly pointed out. “All these churches have given us thousands of dollars and most of our items have been given from the community.”

Just last night, volunteers were cooking the meals at First Coast Technical College’s culinary school, to make sure all families need to do is reheat them.

“Some of us forget that there are families out there that don’t have a stove, they don’t have a house or even an apartment,” Carly emphasized. “Culinary students, high school culinary students, we had like 450 pounds of potatoes, and they cooked it all.”

Each meal comes with traditional Thanksgiving ingredients, like turkey slices, sides like mashed potatoes and stuffing, cranberries and some pie for dessert.

Each bag also comes with a handwritten note from a middle school student, like one that says, “May your holiday be filled with laughter and quality time.”

”I just hope they feel loved and a part of this community,” Carly said.

So, Carly reached out to make sure these meals got to families in need. “We just started calling families,” she remembered.

One call reached Lorrie Lindsey, who was the first in line to pick up meals for her family, and also for those she knows without a home. “I help them a lot with food,” Lindsey explained.

”Why is having a Thanksgiving meal so significant?” asked Action News Jax reporter Jessica Barreto.

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“Because I was homeless last year and it was very hard for me and my family, and we finally got a house this year.”

This year, Lindsey has a message for every person who helped make this meal possible for her and for the many who need it: “Thank you so much for helping us and helping me help other people,” she said.

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