Erie residents got a warm Thanksgiving meal ahead of the holiday, thanks to the generosity of their own neighbors.

After hours spent in the kitchen, volunteers with the Heads of State Barbershop and Bay City Lodge #68 served a free thanksgiving meal to those in need.

Al Smitherman, the organizer said, "We've been doing this for a number of years. And it's just our way of giving back to our community, not just our clients, but our community. So we just want to help out those who are less fortunate and even those who can't afford a meal."

Anyone from the community was welcome to come to the Booker T. Washington Center on Sunday afternoon for a warm meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables and desserts.

Charlene Atchison, a fellow volunteer said, "It brings warmth to your heart, knowing that you can help someone that is less fortunate than you are. It brings a clear understanding that it could have been you in the same position that they are in that we are able to be in this particular community.

Organizers said the need has increased year after year, which is why hosting these types of free meals are their way of doing their part to help those in need.

Volunteers said everyone has a story and some could be struggling to make ends meet, which is why kindness and giving back is vital this time of year.
"The timing might be bad. The circumstances might be bad. We want to just be able to to contribute to their need, if any way possible", explained Smitherman.

Volunteers said the hard work and preparation is worth seeing the smiling faces of those receiving a warm meal. "We are able to be in this particular community to help those that are around to be able to have a hot meal on this cold day", said Atchison. 

For a full list of free Thanksgiving meals around the region, click here.