Helpings From the Heart Feeds Thousands on Thanksgiving

Eric Holm of Metro Corral Partners learned from history and doesn’t feel doomed to repeat it. In fact, he looks forward to it.

The Florida-based owner of 32 Golden Corrals will provide free Thanksgiving meals to more than 20,000 at the Salvation Army gymnasium in Orlando, just as he’s done for the past 23 years. Holm hosts this event because he has vivid memories of eating holiday meals provided by the Salvation Army when he was growing up in a single-parent family and he remains determined to help other community members in need of a meal or just companionship.

Holm founded “Helpings from the Heart” in 1992 as his way of saying “thank you” to Salvation Army on Thanksgiving.

Eric and Diane Holm
Eric and Diane Holm

“I was doing pretty well in my business life and felt the need to help others,” Holm told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. “It’s important for restaurants to reach out and help people in the local community.”

The numbers tell a story, too:

  • 20,000 – Free Thanksgiving meals served at the Salvation Army, also available for carry out and delivered to residents throughout Orlando.
  • 3,000 pounds each of turkey and ham
  • 5,000 pounds of mashed potatoes  
  • 3,500 pounds each of green beans and sweet potatoes
  • 800 pounds of gravy
  • 400 pounds of cranberry sauce
  • 15,000 portions of dessert
  • Enough cans of soda when laid end-to-end to stretch a distance of two miles
  • 1,100 – Number of Salvation Army volunteers that will arrive throughout the day to assist with serving and delivering meals.
  • 450,000 – Estimated number of meals that have been served at the Helpings from the Heart event since it began in

“Our annual Helpings from the Heart event is a wonderful opportunity to help serve others in our community,” said Holm.  “I am personally thankful to be in a position to be able to provide people in Central Florida with a Thanksgiving meal and enjoy the holiday much in the same way my family did when I grew up.”

The dinner is a joint venture between Holm and area nonprofit organizations, corporations and local businesses, including The Salvation Army, Cheney Brothers, Pepsi, MBM, Harvill’s, Bubbalou’s, Puff n Stuff, Universal and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which provides protection for all guests and volunteers.

 “The Helpings from the Heart event takes a lot of preparation, but it is something we take a lot of pride in each year,” said Jason Gronlund, Executive Chef of Helpings from the Heart. “Putting together this event is a team effort, but we are able to bring a lot of people together for a day of joy and thanks.  We look forward to providing a great meal for a lot of deserving people.”

Gronlund and his staff will prepare more than 3,000 pounds of turkey and 3,000 pounds of ham along with plenty of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, corn, pie, fruit and beverages. Meals are also available for carry-out or will be picked up and more than 8,000 meals will be delivered to nursing homes, shut-ins, local churches and other facilities throughout the Orlando area.