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Abundant meal gives struggling Las Vegans a leg up for the holidays

Ken Reed lived through Hurricane Katrina and the great Texas blackout that left millions without power last winter. The experiences prompted the 50-year-old to pick up and move from Houston to Las Vegas a few months ago in search of a better future.

It’s been a difficult transition for Reed, who sat down Thursday morning with nearly 1,000 others to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. The nonprofit is providing Reed with more than a meal, though. It is also offering him shelter, job training, guidance and, most important, hope.

“You get a case manager and a counselor,” Reed said. “Job training. Job coach. Enrolled in different types of classes for the Las Vegas workforce. You get a lot of referrals, different places to try and find something constructive to do.”

Reed is optimistic he’s going to be working soon as a security officer.

“I didn’t have any ID here. They helped me get my identification, my birth certificate,” Reed said, adding, “I definitely want to have my own place. One step at a time. Trying to find gainful employment. That’s what I need right now.”

Reed’s story of moving forward in life was one of many exchanged Thursday at Catholic Charities’ newly upgraded St. Lied Vincent Dining Facility, where a cadre of Catholic Charities staffers and more than 50 volunteers assembled to serve the holiday meal. Together they served 450 pounds of oven-roasted turkey, 500 pounds of garlic mashed potatoes, 300 pounds of green beans and 1,000 slices of pumpkin pie to a long line of people, most of whom struggle to meet day-to-day needs.

“They can come as many times as they want through the line like we can at home,” said Steve Schmitt, chief operating officer for Catholic Charities. “You will see a broad spectrum of people here. We have the chronically homeless who are living on the street all the way to the working poor. … There are people who come here for the community help who have jobs and homes but they just can’t afford the meal.”

The nonprofit is going through a large renovation at its facilities at 1502 N. Main St., Schmitt said.

“On Thanksgiving, so many people out of kindness will go out to the street and feed the homeless out of the backs of their vehicles,” he said. “We just ask them to think twice about that and send them here or Salvation Army or Las Vegas Rescue Mission where people can sit down and enjoy a hot meal. This is a connection to services as well.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak, who was on hand for the feast, put whipped cream on pumpkin pie with Conrad Taube, 14, who came to Catholic Charities with his father, Doni Taube, to volunteer.

“Most Thanksgivings, sometimes we take it for granted,” Conrad said. “But here, we can help the community, serve and grow so it is really great to be here.”

Margaret Mooney is originally from Boston. She’s lived in Las Vegas for 21 years but found herself homeless after her boyfriend of 33 years died in October. She broke down in tears as she talked about how the loss left her without a place to stay. She sleeps outside on the gravel at the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center.

“It’s a blessing, it really is,” Mooney said of Thursday’s dinner. “They are wonderful.”

John Blake, 56, was at Catholic Charities on Thursday to help out a friend who lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic, also had praise for the cooks, staffers and volunteers.

“You are missing out on a good thing if you don’t come here to get it,” he said. “When I eat here I say a prayer to God for the food and after I leave here I say another prayer to bless the workers and their families, you know?”

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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