President-elect Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters handed out chicken and other food items to patrons at a South Side Chicago food pantry yesterday afternoon.
"We're ready," Obama said after preparations at St. Columanus Parish were complete. "Bring 'em on in."
Obama, casually dressed in a brown leather coat and chinos, greeted Chicagoans with a smile, wishing them a happy Thanksgiving and saying, "You can call me Barack."
Bundled up against the brisk, sunny weather, Michelle and her daughters were wearing toboggan caps as they cheerily handed out food to patrons, some of whom had been in line since 5 a.m.
"This is part of what Thanksgiving should be all about," Obama told a pool of reporters. "The number of people who are getting food this year is up 33 percent. It gives a sense times are tough, and I think that on Thanksgiving it's important for us to remember there's a need for support." Many of those lining up for food hadn't been told they had an important guest helping out Wednesday and were surprised to see the President-elect doling out fresh chicken and other food items.
"It makes me feel very special,"said Daryel Namdan, an elderly resident from the neighborhood who stood in line for fod, before choking up.
Father Matt Eyerman of Saint Columbanus said the church feeds 450 to 500 people every week.
Obama also stopped into the parish school and surprised a large group of children, who shouted and reached out to touch the soon-to-be leader of the country.
An Obama aide said the family has been to this particular food bank before and has pitched in here or elsewhere at least two other years.
When asked about his family's own plans for Thanksgiving, the president-elect replied that he and Michelle are hosting "a whole bunch of people" at their home.