SALT LAKE CITY — For a few hours on Monday, the Utah Jazz opened up their home court to thousands in need.
Lines of people covered the Vivint Smart Home Arena concourse Monday morning for the annual We Care – We Share Thanksgiving Meal hosted by the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.
Inside the building, Jazz and Miller employees served more than 3,000 full Thanksgiving meals donated by Utah Food Services to homeless and low-income individuals.
"I really like to be able to interact one-on-one as they come through," Gail Miller said before joining the serving line. "Giving them a warm place to have a good meal and feel loved and cared for and part of a community … that's important to me."
Salt Lake City Mission distributed winter clothing and shoes inside the arena as well. The Rev. Joe Vazquez said the mission has partnered with the Jazz organization for years on the annual event.
"Whatever their issues are, people should not be hungry when we're all enjoying hot, traditional meals at home," the Rev. Vazquez said.
The mission will also host a "Thanksgiving food box giveaway" Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1151 S. Redwood Road, and a "Great Thanksgiving Banquet" Thursday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Christian Life Center of Utah, 1055 N. Redwood Road. The mission will distribute winter clothing again at both events, the Rev. Vazquez said.
Rudy Fryer and Heather Hertig, a couple who stay at the Road Home shelter, had their first Thanksgiving together eight years ago at the same event, and attended Monday for the first time since.
"They did a fantastic job in there. They showed everybody respect," Hertig said.Comment on this story
She was impressed by the workers and volunteers helping those who were disabled — carrying their plates, helping them find tables and getting them all set up. "That's what made me happy and proud, that people like that are willing to help."
Dustin Dehlin, who has worked for the Jazz 16 years, said it's always a bittersweet experience — seeing how many people are in need, but being able to help them and see the smiles on their faces.
"Brand new shoes, the food's really nice … It gives them something to feel good about," Dehlin said.