New Orleanians Have Difficult But Thankful Thanksgiving

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Despite being homeless and seeing his family and friends get flooded out of their neighborhoods, Frank Ray beamed as he helped carry boxes of donated food to feed his fellow storm-weary New Orleanians on Thanksgiving Day.

"It's a wonderful Thanksgiving," Ray, 43, said. "It's a new day by the grace of God."

Ray was one of several residents of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center called the Bridge House in downtown New Orleans helping to get a feast on the table. The center, which typically feeds about 500 homeless people, prepared enough meals for up to 1,000 people this Thanksgiving in hard-luck New Orleans.

"There are a lot of people out there who are feeling lonely because of the storm," said Else Pedersen-Wasson, the Bridge House's associate executive director.

Across the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, people are trying to patch together a sense of normality by holding Thanksgiving feasts amid scarcity and hardship.

Some will forgo their traditional dinner at home and head to restaurants, while others were whipping up feasts in the tiny kitchens of government-issued trailers — or even making do with a barbecue pit.

In New Orleans, churches and charity organizations planned to feed thousands of people who remain in the city.

A grand feast was planned for the city's 5,000 firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel and their families. Many of the city's first-responders are housed on cruise ships.

"It's going to be an extremely difficult Thanksgiving, but everyone who made it is very thankful," said Dan King, the general manager of the Sheraton in downtown New Orleans.

His hotel is offering free Thanksgiving meals to its guests, who include staff from seven hospitals, employees with the circuit courts and emergency preparedness workers.