Amber Hockman had never seen anything like it: Cans, boxes and bags of food piled high on tables spread throughout a gym, all of it free.
The Franklin resident had never been to the annual Thanksgiving food giveaway at SS. Francis and Clare Catholic Church in the Center Grove area; but after her husband, Brandon Hockman, lost his job this year, the couple knew they could use all the help they could get.
After about 45 minutes, the couple had filled two sacks and a cooler with enough food for a few days’ meals.
On Tuesday, about 320 families showed up to get cans and boxes of food, along with a turkey, pie and rolls for Thanksgiving, said Jerry Dean, planned assistance ministry chairman at the church.
The program has grown every year. He said 80 more families came for help this year than last year.
“It’s just the economy,” Dean said. “People are out of work. They’re underemployed. They need help.”
For the past 20 years, parishioners at the church have donated thousands of cans and boxes of food each year to be given away at the event, Dean said. The church also purchases turkeys, pies and rolls to give the families with donations from parishioners.
This year, the church bought 305 turkeys, he said.
Linda Hubbard of Bargersville said her 17-year-old grandson will help her cook the turkey today. Her grandson has never cooked with her before, and she said she’s excited to have him help.
Hubbard said she usually makes Thanksgiving dinner; but now that she has been unemployed for a year, spending $60 on food for the holiday was out of the question.
“I’ve been donating to things like this for years,” she said. “It’s a great thing when I can turn around and say I need it, and here it is.”
Amber Hockman said her mother usually cooks Thanksgiving dinner, but she’s getting older and doesn’t want to cook anymore.
Without the food from the giveaway, Hockman said, she and her husband would not have been able to cook the dinner for them and her mother.
“We would have had to have gone to a family member. We’re very grateful,” Hockman said.
Besides food for Thanksgiving dinner, families also received boxes of pasta, jars of peanut butter, bags of apples and other items.
Greenwood resident Amy Carmichael said she thought all of the food would cost about $100 at a store.
She went to the giveaway with her father-in-law this year. She had gone to the event and cooked Thanksgiving dinner with her mother-in-law last year, but her mother-in-law passed away in February.
Carmichael said she now is in charge of cooking the dinner for her family, which she couldn’t do without food from the church.
“I thank the Lord every day,” she said. “I know I have kids to take care of.”