By Sarah Chacko

Killeen Daily Herald

While most households were still preparing for their holiday gatherings later this week, some local agencies opened their doors to the community a little earlier.

The Armed Services YMCA and Killeen NAACP sponsored two separate Thanksgiving lunches Sunday, hosting about 600 people total.

Our job is to try and help folks in the community, said ASYMCA Executive Director Tony Mino.

The ASYMCA received food donations and cooking help from local businesses to feed the hundreds who came to the First United Methodist Churchs Fellowship Hall.

Hendersons Restaurant supplied mashed potatoes and gravy; Wal-Mart and H-E-B gave rolls and pies; the Plaza Hotel cooked stuffing and turkeys donated by Pioneer Services; and board members brought corn and green beans.

It was a great community project, Mino said. They help because they know there is a need ... unlike some communities that try and hide their homeless problem.

Jeff Watterson said he has a home; just no water or electricity. During these trying times, he said any meal offered fills the void.

When youve got nowhere to cook one of your own, and someones willing to do that yeah, buddy, he said.

For the families at the Killeen Housing Authoritys Moss Rose Complex, it was the first official community activity at their new Community and Development Center, which opened in October.

The NAACPs youth and adult councils, as well as students from Manor Middle Schools AVID program, helped prepare and serve Thanksgiving plates to Moss Rose residents.

During prior Thanksgiv-ings, residents had to get their dinners in to-go boxes.

Resident Services Director Janice Taylor said the complex is a very communal place. The residents are used to eating together, whether it be out on the playground or crammed into the previous Moss Rose community center.

Amber Longoria, a resident at Moss Rose, said she is fortunate to have family in the area to spend the holidays with, but Sundays lunch was helpful for people who may not be able to go home.

Its good to have Thanksgiving dinner with other people instead of sitting at home alone, she said.

Angenet Wilkerson, education chair for the NAACP and AVID coordinator at Manor, said the center was created to provide opportunities for people, especially neighbors, to meet.

Its like family, she said. Even though were not blood related, were here together.

Contact Sarah Chacko at schacko@kdh

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