BRADENTON -- The Mendez family felt right at home Tuesday night.
Nine strong, Ramiro and Peggy and their seven kids were among the nearly 100 folks enjoying an early Thanksgiving meal at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church on MLK Avenue East.
That the actual holiday was two days away did not matter.
This was another meal for them to be grateful for, too.
"It gets our belly filled one more day," said Mendez, who's unemployed. "We live in the neighborhood and they invite us here every month. So we're thankful. Got to be thankful to be breathing, for everything."
"Thank God," Peggy Mendez said. "Thank God."
Olga Brooks-Burney understood the woman's sentiment.
A lifelong member of St. Paul's, she sees the impact the church's monthly meal has on the needy and lonely.
"It's a nice gathering, due to the fact some people might not get a good Thanksgiving dinner," Brooks-Burney said. "This way they get fellowship and see people they may not have seen in a while. Those who don't have family, it gives them something to look forward to, give them a good feeling for the holidays."
Nearby Wendell Martin surveyed the dining room from behind the dessert table, as people tucked into turkey, stuffing, rice, collard greens and more.
He oversees St. Paul's com munity's monthly meal and that it fell during Thanksgiving week was apropos.
"People don't have an opportunity to get out to eat, but here they can come for a wholesome meal for free and do it as a family," Martin said. "It's our way of giving back to the community and having the community come to us."
Tuesday's turnout was larger than usual.
"Normally we'll have 80-90 people, people who come regularly, but I see some new faces," he said. "Holidays meals are always large and December will be larger than this. We'll bring Santa in for the kids."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter:note>