PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After two years of social distancing during the holiday, local organizations invited community members to come back to the table this Thanksgiving.

Many organizations are serving free meals this year as some in the community are in need of emergency food relief.

Union Gospel Mission kicked off Thanksgiving celebrations on Nov. 16, serving about 1,000 holiday meals at their southeast Portland shelter.

“They feel wanted, they feel comfortable, they feel loved,” said Union Gospel Mission volunteer Curtis Bogan.

On Thursday, volunteers like Bogan helped serve about 300 meals at the mission’s downtown location.

“I’ve been spending time getting acquainted with people I haven’t seen in a while, and some of these people are actually living indoors now, which is great, they’re not homeless but they don’t always get the type of meal they like so that’s what brought them down here,” Bogan said.

In 2022, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, community members are invited inside to enjoy their turkey dinner.

“We’re still doing our best to take all the health precautions we need but also want to offer guests something special on the holiday,” Courtney Dodds of the Union Gospel Mission said.

At American Legion Post 180 in Milwaukie, First Vice Commander Mike Lueck told KOIN 6 News they started preparing their Thanksgiving feast on Monday.

“The crowd is not only veterans, we open it up to the whole community,” Lueck said.

A team of legion staff and volunteers served an estimated 150 to 250 people from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.

“Everybody’s very thankful for a meal, be able to come sit down in a warm place,” Lueck said.

The Union Gospel Mission and the American Legion are just two of several organizations that provided not just a traditional turkey meal but also companionship on a day that can be lonely for many.