Feeding the hungry with Easter dinner

By WEEK Reporter

April 20, 2014 Updated Apr 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Every day millions of people in the United States go hungry.

Almost 2 million people in Illinois do not have access to nutritious food and 28,000 of those people live in Peoria County.

The county tries to combat the issue, with more than 50 food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens.

Easter Sunday is a day many people spend time with their families and enjoy a big meal.

But what happens when you can't have that?

Volunteers at the Neighborhood house in Peoria opened the doors at noon and welcomed strangers in as part of their family for an Easter meal of their own.

"A lot of people don't have a place to eat. A lot of homeless people get to come here and have a good hot meal. It's been a beautiful experience," said Eva McKinney, meal recipient.

One family has been coming to the Neighborhood house on Easter for two years and say it isn't just about the food but the connections made with the people.

"It's a way to get out of the house and just come on through. You see people that you haven't seen in awhile and you get to talk to them," said Tabitha White, meal recipient.

And a hot meal means more than a full stomach for Wanda Jackson. Her Easter dinner strengthens her faith in God.

"Thank God for the blessing that you can come here and eat and it's a blessing knowing there are people that care about us out here," said Jackson.

The volunteers were members of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

The group spent their Easter Sunday preparing and serving the meals to the people at Neighborhood House.

Organizers were a little nervous there would not be enough volunteers, but it turns out a lot of people wanted to spend their holiday giving back.

"'Cause we all got families we were a little bit nervous how many would show up, with their own families and Easter, and we had a really good crew here. People really pitch in, they really help," said Robert McGowan, President of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

Different volunteer organizations go to the Neighborhood house every Sunday to bring fresh meals to people in need.

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