Recruits at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Training Center Cape May got a holiday reprieve Thursday to relax with local host families for Thanksgiving.

More than 90 families in Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland counties fed and entertained 226 recruits, many of whom were spending their first Thanksgiving away from home.

The hosts across South Jersey provided a home-cooked meal and treated the recruits like family, Petty Officer Donnie Brzuska said. Residents picked up the recruits at the Coast Guard base at about 

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8 a.m. for a day of football, food and relaxation.

“It’s always moving to see families who want to give back to the military,” Brzuska said. “I’ve never seen anything like anywhere else I’ve been stationed — the help and support we get from local families.”

Brzuska visited in Linwood with the family of Dr. James Kauffman, who set up several computers and offered phones for recruits to talk with out-of-state relatives.

“It’s a good opportunity for the recruits to take a break from the stressful training environment and decompress and share some time with these generous families,” Brzuska said.

“Operation Fireside,” which is organized by the America Red Cross, has matched Cape May’s recruits with host families on Thanksgiving since 1981.

“We really appreciate the generosity of all the volunteers,” he said.

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