LAWRENCE (CBS) — Columbia Gas is preparing turkeys for tens of thousands of people in North Andover, Andover and Lawrence this Thanksgiving. The 23,000 meals are for residents who have not returned home or do not have gas after the natural gas explosions in Merrimack Valley this September.

There will be three sit-down locations for Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal: one is a heated tent on the south common in Lawrence, right next to the trailer city of displaced residents, another at the Lawrence Elks Lodge, and the third at the Andover Senior Center.

White tables and chairs have been set up for Thanksgiving in a tent next to the temporary trailer city in Lawrence (WBZ-TV)

The kitchen at The Tuscan Marketplace was busy Wednesday night as workers prepared the to-go meals. “We started prepping at 6 a.m. this morning. We’ll continue through the night,” said Erica Canales.

The meals were a way for Columbia Gas to thank Merrimack Valley residents for their patience amid the recovery from the September 13th explosions and fires.

Despite everything these families have been through, they say they have a lot to be thankful for.

To-go meals prepared at the Tuscan Marketplace for Merrimack Valley residents (WBZ-TV)

Yesenia Guerrero house still doesn’t have gas on her generator strewn street. “Everything has changed. It’s not going to be the same,” she said.

But she’s picking up dinners for a dozen family members and bringing them home. “We are going to be together. So we have to be thankful for that,” she added.

Keith Murphy’s gas service finally kicked back on a few days ago. He said, “That clunk, clunk, clunk noise was the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

Therefore, he doesn’t have to accept the freebie but he is thankful that 2,100 people still living in temp housing or toughing it out in heatless homes will have a nice meal. “I hope they have a great Thanksgiving. It’s been a long two months.”

Folks preparing Thursday’s portable feast tell WBZ-TV their biggest worry is keeping the meals hot in the potentially record-setting cold.

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