Chicago, IL

Migrants bused from Texas enjoyed their first-ever Thanksgiving feast in Chicago

Jennifer Geer

This Thanksgiving, the Salvation Army provided 700 holiday meals (including 1,600 pounds of turkey) to those in need at the Salvation Army Freedom Center in Humboldt Park.

(CHICAGO) They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Central America. For some migrant families heading to the Salvation Army Freedom Center in the Humboldt Park neighborhood this Thursday, the traditional American holiday feast came as a welcome surprise.

Margie Gamboa, from Colombia, has been in Chicago for a month now with her family. She told CBS2 Chicago the meal was "deliciosa!" An interpreter explained to CBS2 that Margie came to the center on Thursday with her child for a hot meal without knowing it was a holiday celebration until after they arrived.

Salvation Army Captain Nikki Hughes told Chicago's WGN, “I was telling them about Thanksgiving, and they don’t celebrate there but now they’re learning. You can hear the laughter; they are so excited to be here."

Chicago's Levy gives back

Each year the Salvation Army teams up with Levy, a Chicago-based hospitality company, to provide made-from-scratch Thanksgiving meals at the Freedom Center. The restaurant brings a truck full of mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and 1,600 pounds of turkey.

Due to the pandemic, last year's meals were distributed in take-out containers. But in 2022, once again, the meals were served in person, and families could sit down to celebrate the holiday together.

Asylum seekers from Texas

The holiday meal at the Freedom Center was open to anyone. Some families enjoying the restaurant-quality feast have recently arrived to Chicago on buses from Texas.

A total of 3,687 asylum seekers have come to Chicago by bus since this summer, with 32 new arrivals on the night before Thanksgiving. The governor of Texas began sending people to Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and most recently, Philadelphia in protest over immigration policies.

In September, Governor JB Pritzker issued an emergency disaster proclamation to unlock state resources to support migrants arriving in Chicago from Texas.

"Let me be clear: while other states may be treating these vulnerable families as pawns, here in Illinois, we are treating them as people," Gov. Pritzker said in a press release.

How you can help

The city has set up a website, Chicago.gov/support, with information on donations needed, such as toiletries and winter clothing.

The Salvation Army Freedom Center is located at 825 N. Christiana Avenue in Chicago.

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