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On this day, they are thankful

About 225 people share a traditional Thanksgiving meal, served by a group of doctors and their families at the Salvation Army.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 24, 2000


PORT RICHEY -- Pat Haase has just enough income to pay her basic bills: rent, utilities, car.

"The grocery bill is always cut back," the 49-year-old disabled veteran said.

So nearly every day, Haase eats at the Salvation Army, just down the street from her apartment. Thanksgiving was no exception.

Even though she admits life is sometimes tough, on Thursday Haase said she has much to be thankful for.

She got out of the hospital on Wednesday, after suffering chest pains, and on Thursday, she ate a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family at the Salvation Army's Center of Hope on Washington Street.

"I know God provides for us," she said. "God opened this door for us to eat."

Haase was one of about 225 people who ate a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing and pie at the Salvation Army.

More than 40 people volunteered to serve meals, including a group of local doctors and their families.

The doctors are members of the American Association of Physicians from Southeast Asia. The association is a charitable group with more than 350 members in the Tampa Bay area. Each Thanksgiving, said Dr. Murthy Rattehalli, the group sponsors a turkey dinner for an organization such as the Salvation Army.

Rattehalli, a surgeon who practices in Hudson and Tampa, and several of his colleagues from around the area served meals, cleared plates and chatted with volunteers. The doctors' families also helped serve food.

Betty Oringderff, 65, said eating a meal at the Salvation Army is a welcome change from eating in her truck, which is her only home at the moment.

"It gives me a good, hot meal," she said. "It fills an empty spot. You won't be near as hungry when you go to bed."

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