ORANGE COUNTY, Fla – Thanksgiving is a joyous time of year, but for families that are living paycheck to paycheck it can be stressful and underwhelming.

  • Maggiano's donates meals to families in need
  • The meals were delivered to OCPS headquarters
  • School officials identify different families in need

That's why earlier this month inside Maggiano's Little Italy, a Thanksgiving dinner was being wrapped, packed and stored. The meal then was loaded into a black Maggiano's van and driven over to Orange County Public Schools headquarters.

The food in the white boxes intended for the school district's most in-need families. 

"And everything is made from scratch, and what would a traditional thanksgiving dinner be without spaghetti and meatballs," a Maggiano's employee said.

"Nothing wrong with that right there," Ryan Mackie said.

His family has been living in and out of hotels for two years and classifies as homeless.

"Thank you so much," Mackie said, with tears in his eyes.

"You are welcome. Oh my gosh, I am so happy, and hope you have a great Thanksgiving," Maggiano's accounting operations manager Stephanie Arthur said.

"We didn't know what we were going to do actually to tell you the truth, we got so much stuff on our plate right now. Just not food," Mackie said. "I had to suck it up and come, just to help out my family."

Before this donation, Thanksgiving dinner might not have been possible. 

"We weren't sure if we were going to have the money, so we weren't sure what we were going to do, because it is like next week. I mean we didn't have any idea," he said.

Mackie's family was not the only one. Typically Maggiano's helps two families a month. During months when a hurricane hits, the restaurant helps three to five. The partnership started eight years ago.

Orange County Public Schools employees identify the different families and then set up a time for Maggiano's to deliver.  

"It's definitely a great moment, and anything we can do to make their lives a little less stressful," Arthur said.  

Perla Hernandez's family is a migrant family. She said the number of people in her home can range from seven to well over ten.

"This is my nephew, that is my sister, my niece and another nephew," Hernandez said, pointing to the youngest children who will get to enjoy the warm, fresh meal.