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Volunteers, politicians and patrons serve food on Tuesday in Nashua as part of the 12th annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless, which fed 260 people. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)

Dinner for the homeless feeds 260 in Nashua

NASHUA - Hundreds of less-fortunate people from Nashua and beyond gathered Tuesday to celebrate Thanksgiving at Harbor Homes.

For many of the 260 people who took advantage of a hot meal and a second plate of food at the 12th annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless, the event was about more than just satisfying their hunger.

"Many of us are in the middle of that doughnut hole - living day by day," said Suzanne Marchant, who was enjoying a plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and all of the fixings. "There are a lot of us out there struggling, so every little bit helps."

While Marchant plans on spending Thanksgiving Day with a friend, she said many people at Tuesday's event will not be as fortunate. Partnership for Successful Living hosted the annual dinner, serving more than 50 turkeys and an estimated 300 pounds of potatoes, 400 pounds of stuffing and about 20 pies to individuals and families in need.

But Marchant said it isn't just about the food, but rather the camaraderie of dining with friends and strangers who understand the challenges faced by all of the less fortunate residents in Nashua.

"This is my family. We are all in this together," she said.

More than 40 volunteers helped make the event a success, including several local and state politicians who chipped in to serve food. Gov. John Lynch attends the event each year, saying it is important to support Harbor Homes in its mission to serve homeless veterans.

"It is also important to give back and show my appreciation for what they do. I applaud them," Lynch said of Harbor Homes. "Especially during the holidays, it is important to recognize their clientele - the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us."

Live musical entertainment was on hand and the Harbor Care Health and Wellness Center was open throughout the dinner for anyone who wanted to get a free flu shot.

"This is amazing," said Peter Kelleher, president and CEO of the Partnership for Successful Living and Affiliates. The turnout was impressive, said Kelleher, adding it was great to see so many people celebrating Thanksgiving with a warm meal.

With an estimated 140,000 people in New Hampshire not knowing where their next meal will come from, Lynch it's important to make an effort to take care of everybody this time of year.

"This has been a great day. We love to have all of these people show up and just enjoy a good meal," said Chris Ruby, who was volunteering in the kitchen.

Ruby said he helps with the event each year, and yet he is still amazed at how the attendance continues to rise year after year.

Debbie Owens of Nashua says she often brings her family to the annual dinner, saying her niece and nephew look forward to all of the great food.

"It seems like there are a lot more people here who are hungry and need food," said Owens, adding the economy has impacted many families throughout the city. "But there are many loving and caring people here. That is what this day is all about."

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Kimberly Houghton may be reached at khoughton@newstote.com.

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