During the holidays, many in Lincoln go out of their way to donate to local charities or volunteer their time to organizations in need.
Many of those volunteers end up at one of several soup kitchens around town.
"From the week before Thanksgiving until the new year, we have a huge increase in volunteer requests," says Susanne Blue, executive director of Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach. "We get so many requests that we have to turn some away, which is definitely a good problem to have."
Volunteers and employees at Matt Talbot try to make the holidays special for the homeless and low-income guests that use their services.
"It's not always a holly jolly time of year for everyone if you're struggling with poverty, homelessness or addiction," Blue said. "Sometimes, the holidays are even harder, so we do what we can to make sure everybody feels special."
Giving those in need a sense of belonging is something volunteers and employees at Lincoln soup kitchens take seriously.
Lisa Janssen, the program administrator for the Gathering Place, said it's something they strive to do throughout the year but try especially hard to do during the holidays.
"The volunteers here like to put on a big holiday dinner with all the traditional food," she said. "But the real treat for our guests is they get served at their tables for this meal, so they feel like they're at a restaurant."
A warm meal isn't the only thing that makes those in need feel special, according to Janssen. She said that the sense of community at the Gathering Place is another plus.
"We're set up in a house, so I think that warm and cozy feeling along with good company gives them a good feeling that makes them want to keep coming back during this time of year," she said.
Janssen said it's important to keep that attitude in mind throughout the year, not just around the holidays.
"The need for food and donations is there year-round," she said. "People think about it more during the holidays, but we have such a great community that makes sure we can provide meals all year."
But providing food isn't necessarily the only task at hand.
"The real challenge is instilling hope this time of year with people who are really struggling," Blue said. "It's really important to us that we try to do that."
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