By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4)– Almost every student who attends Castro Elementary School in Denver is on the free and reduced lunch program. With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of their families would likely go without the traditional holiday meal.

That’s until a neighboring church stepped in to ensure hundreds of students have much to be thankful for.

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“This is one of the most needy communities in the city of Denver,” William Rodriguez, pastor of Praise Center Church, said. “We wanted to give a little back to the people to let them know that they’re loved and they do matter.”

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William Rodriguez (credit: CBS)

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When Rodriguez learned 98 percent of students at the elementary school cannot afford lunch, he knew he had to do something so their families could enjoy a Thanksgiving feast.

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“We took from our own food bank, bought more food, people donated turkeys,” Rodriguez said of his church community. “Everybody pitched in.”

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With the help of donations, Praise Center Church collected enough food to create 100 Thanksgiving boxes to give to Castro Elementary School families.

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“A Thanksgiving box will feed six people,” Rodriguez told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “This little box may not say whole lot, but it does say that we care.”

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Among the families who lined up to collect a Thanksgiving box was Leann Miera, along with her three daughters and several nieces.

“It’s a blessing,” she said. “We’re actually struggling a little with food this year.”

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Miera said it is hard to imagine how her family would celebrate the holiday if it weren’t for the church’s generosity.

“It would be tough,” she said.

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Even more reason why Rodriguez is happy his church could come together to help so many families.

“We ought to do something special not just during Thanksgiving, but every day,” he said.

Rodriguez hopes Thanksgiving is just the beginning of helping students of Castro Elementary. The next goal is to raise enough money to pay for lunches at least once a month.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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