With a strong spirit of volunteerism and those partaking in a feast giving thanks, the Salvation Army annual Thanksgiving dinner provided food and fellowship for many to enjoy a holiday meal Thursday.
More than 145 volunteers were on hand as turkey, spoonfuls of mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and all the fixings greeted guests who might not have enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner otherwise.
In addition to 400 meals planned on site, nearly 500 meals were delivered into the community.
“We are so excited today to have the community come into the Salvation Army and the reason we do this is to give back to those in need during the season,” said Salvation Army Lt. Elaine Canning.
She said the dinner is a community and family event made possible by donations and the volunteers who set up, cook, clean and serve.
“This is what we consider to be a privilege to serve our community in the name of Jesus Christ and to give back where there is a need,” she said.
Among the volunteers helping out for the dinner were 15 members of the VFW Post 1317 Riders Club.
Rider Jennifer Thomas, a retired police officer, said she typically spends the holiday with her family, but this year decided to spend time helping and visiting with others.
“People here don’t have family or the same opportunities and they need someone to care,” Thomas said. “I’ve always been taught to take care of others. It’s enjoyable and it makes you feel good.”
Rider James Wear said they volunteered as a way to give back to their community.
Volunteers of all ages were helping in the serving line Thursday, including two Shawnee Middle School students.
Kristen Gilbert, 12, and her friend, Harper Morris, 13, were among those volunteering.
“I’m just here to help people in need — it’s really fun and it feels good to help others,” Gilbert said.
Morris agreed and said it’s neat to help out.
Canning said in addition to the meal, those attending the annual feast were able to get gently used coats and there also were crafts for the children along with a picture-taking station.
Canning said the dinner is made possible by the donations and the community.
“They make all this possible — we can’t do it without the community,” she said.
Among the volunteers was a couple that has spent the last 10 years helping out for this event.
Page 2 of 2 - Jim Sampley serves on the Salvation Army board while his wife, Gayle, serves on the women’s auxiliary. Both said volunteering for the dinner is a family tradition.
“We can see the benefit as we’re working,” Gayle Sampley said. “You can see immediately the help it’s giving others.”
Jim Sampley, who spent the past few days helping cook about 42 turkeys for the event, said the smiles are what it’s all about.
“That’s what keeps you coming back,” he said.
One of the volunteers helping out Thursday was a woman who wanted to give back for the help she’s received.
Denise said she’s been staying in the Salvation Army shelter for the past six weeks so she wanted to help out with the dinner. She spent time hanging up coats and helping with the desserts.
For many of the volunteers who return each year, working the dinner is an annual tradition like no other.
“We have no idea how blessed we are,” said Volunteer Cricket Trammell, who commented about many youth volunteers in attendance this year.
Faith Thoma and her daughter, Brittany, also were among the returning volunteers that make Shawnee a great community.
“It’s something about Shawnee — everyone doesn’t mind giving up their Thanksgiving to help,” Thoma said.
In addition to the meals served in the Salvation Army gymnasium, hundreds of meals also were prepared and delivered.
About 20 meals were taken to Carter Hall Juvenile Detention Center, while 360 dinners went to the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center to provide the prisoners there a glimpse of home on the holiday, Canning said. Ten meals were delivered to police officers who were on duty Thursday, while more than 50 meals were delivered to residents at two senior housing complexes.