As we gather around the table with our families this Thanksgiving day . . .

Wait! Maybe that’s not really the case with many Southwest Floridians.

We like to think the majority of us will congregate today with family and friends. There will be a big meal — whether it’s turkey, ham or some non-meat entity. Maybe the TV will be tuned to football. There will be laughs, hugs, full bellies and stories told. And, maybe even a shopping trip later, or plans for an early shopping expedition on Black Friday.

But, for far too many, none of that may happen.

What about the homeless? What about the widows or widowers, or those who are new to the area and far away from family? What about the single parents?

This, and Christmas, could shape up as the loneliest days ever for them.

But, it doesn’t have to be a lonely day. Or a day without a hearty meal. That’s because there are hundreds of volunteers with churches and community groups who are giving their time today to make sure everyone has a place to go, plenty of food and a shoulder to lean on.

It’s all done in the spirit of the holidays, and from our experience reporting on these events over the years, there is not a single volunteer who regrets interrupting their day to show compassion for others. No, they are thrilled to be able to offer not only good food but fellowship to those who may not have anyone to share Thanksgiving with.

There are many churches and groups cooking up free meals today. Some include:

• Agria Gordon is providing a free lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Avon Park Community Center, 300 W. Main St. This lunch is sponsored by Donald Gordon LLC.

• The Salvation Army will put its food down for guests from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 120 N. Ridgewood Drive for dine-in and will have food available for pick up at the Multi-Sports Complex, 216 Sheriff’s Tower Road.

• The Highlands Community Church will serve a free dinner from 2-5 p.m. The church is at 3005 New Live Way in Sebring.

• At 3 p.m., Spring Lake United Methodist Church, 8170 Cozumel Lane in Sebring, will serve lunch to those who called for reservations.

• Faith Lutheran Church of Sebring will serve its Thanksgiving Day meal from noon to 2 p.m. for the 10th consecutive year. The church is at 2740 Lakeview Drive. Pickup and delivery are available.

• Union Congregational Church will have its annual Hot Meals and Hugs Thanksgiving Meal starting at 11:30 a.m. The chrcu is at 106 N. Butler Ave. in Avon Park.

It sounds like anyone could eat all day.

It’s a wonderful gesture from these community-minded churches and groups. Kudos to those who are getting the holiday season off to a great start.

A revised editorial from the Charlotte Sun.^p