SACRAMENTO - Thanksgiving may be three days away but thousands of people in downtown Sacramento were already giving thanks.
"I can't give you my gratitude enough,” said Ernest Gueyger, who was at the Sacramento Food Bank to pick up a free Thanksgiving meal.
The food bank handed out 4,000 turkey dinners, each with 15 side dishes early Monday morning.
"This makes a huge difference. A lot of these families would not otherwise be able to have a Thanksgiving meal together," said Kelly Siefkin with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
"This brightens us up," Grueyger said. "Gives us turkey to eat. Canned foods, yams, whatever else they got in there, I'm happy and thankful."
People started lining up for their free meals around 5 a.m. on Monday. Organizers say that the line stretched 12 blocks, roughly a mile of people all waiting to get their free Thanksgiving meals.
"It is long, but it moves quickly. When we opened at 8 a.m., it moved very, very smoothly and we'll be serving about 1,000 families per hour,” Siefkin said.
The food bank also distributed more than 12,000 more turkeys to other charities around the Sacramento region.
"Every single one of those turkeys gets to a family in need this holiday season,” Siefkin said.
Each turkey was donated by community members. It was an act of giving that gives thousands of people in Sacramento the opportunity to share a meal with their families.
"It makes me stay at home now. I don't have to go elsewhere like I usually do," said Sam Marshall, who also picked up a free Thanksgiving meal. "So now, my family and I are going to have a happy Thanksgiving. My Thanksgiving is going to be great now, thanks to these guys."
If you'd like to give back to the food bank this holiday season, organizers are asking you to register for Run to Feed the Hungry on Thursday. Even if you don't run, the registration fees will raise about a million dollars for the food bank to fund their programs year-round.