ST. LOUIS - Thanksgiving came early for many St. Louis communities in need.
The Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation handed out 3,000 turkeys Saturday as part of the annual tradition, now in its 26th year.
Johnson the former professional football player and St. Louis native was seen directing and orchestrating hundreds of volunteers on North Union Boulevard who were busy packing and placing thousands of turkeys ready to be delivered to several needy communities around the St. Louis area.
"It’s an event that I look forward to every year because you have an opportunity to impact families and make a difference," Johnson said.
Johnson added that each year has been different, meaning a new set of challenges that continue to highlight the need for having a warm holiday meal.
“The challenges are the economy," Johnson said, "people you know are struggling so bad and just getting people to also understand that you've gotta give back, that’s always a challenge.”
The annual giveaway invites a diverse group of volunteers, including notable public figures and civic leaders. And for some of them, the event was a bit personal.
"Some people in the community helped my family when my father was laid off," said St. Louis City Board of Aldermen President, Lewis Reed, "and when we saw that box of stuff on our doorstep in the morning and have a great Thanksgiving, it really helped us.”
Other local leaders believed that taking the time to give back is an opportunity to change the lives of many people, even if it’s for the time being.
“This will show people that people still care about them you know?" said City of Dellwood Mayor, Reggie Jones, "sometimes politicians get a bad name but we do care about our communities, we care about the wellbeing of our community.”
“Understand that if your life is good everybody else’s life may not be just as good as yours," said Johnson, "and that everybody is just one tragedy away from changing the whole dynamic of their lifestyle.”