By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In years past, the Camillus House annual Thanksgiving Day feast for the shelter’s clients and area homeless had all the trimmings of a block party.

Volunteer servers made it a part their Thanksgiving Day ritual, serving the less fortunate before heading home for family events.

However, both are going to be much different this year because of COVID.

“This is an annual tradition for us. We have done it for 60 years. This year we wanted to make sure we continued with that tradition,” said Camillus House CEO Hilda Fernandez. “We have had to reduce the number of chairs and tables because of COVID. This is a time when they are eating without masks. We have to be cautious.”

In the past, volunteers served nearly 500 meals inside the compound’s dining hall.

But this year there’s no room for the street homeless who are not part of the Camillus House community.

“We didn’t want to now do something for the street homeless. So we have an empty lot at the corner that belongs to us. We are going to have to rent tents and tables to provide those meals rather than a serving line. So they are going to be in clam shells so we can avoid any issues with the serving of food,” said Fernandez.

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In order to serve, volunteers have to be tested and be cleared before the thanksgiving feast. Testing is an ongoing regimen for residents and staffers at the Camillus House, which has been stepped up for this year’s Thanksgiving.

“We realize our population is already compromised and that is why we take extra measures to keep them safe,” said Fernandez.

Many local businesses, restaurants contribute to the annual event. Several hotels cook turkeys in their kitchens and send them over for the long-time Miami tradition.