Food, music highlight Army holiday events

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Army cares at Thanksgiving


This Thanksgiving, as always, families throughout the West gathered around bountiful tables filled with turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other holiday favorites. Countless others celebrated a similar feast–not at home but in halls and churches, surrounded by strangers who somehow became family–enjoying dinners prepared by Salvationists and volunteers.

This year, in the wake of the September attacks, Thanksgiving gatherings felt a little different: thankfulness was expressed more often; love was given spontaneously; appreciation for life, for family, for God was demonstrated warmly.

Throughout the West

The reports that follow are representative of the celebrations in large and small corps throughout the Western Territory where people were lovingly fed and cared for this Thanksgiving.

In Renton, Wash., where 47 different languages are spoken in the local high school, 700 people received Thanksgiving meals that included a choice of food options reflecting cultural and ethnic preferences. As a substitute for potatoes, for example, rice was offered, and recipies were available in Laotian, Spanish and Russian at the distribution held at the Renton Corps.

In San Diego, Calif., nearly 1,800 homeless and needy enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner–a tradition that has been upheld since the late 1800s. Four hundred volunteers dressed in uniforms greeted guests as they entered and escorted them to their tables. Once all were seated, volunteers served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Dessert followed, with entertainment by Salvation Army musicians.

For more than 30 years, The Salvation Army in Honolulu, Hawaii, has served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. This year, more than 2,500 guests enjoyed a festive holiday feast: over 1,000 pounds of turkey, 550 pounds of stuffing, 35 gallons of gravy, 100 gallon cans of vegetables, 400 pounds of rice (before cooking) and more were consumed by satisfied and appreciative guests.

They were also entertained before and during dinner. Local celebrities and entertainers provided a mélange of wonderful musical entertainment ­ including the sweet strains of Hawaiian music and hula, foot-stomping country and western fiddle music, and inspirational and energizing gospel songs. All the local entertainers graciously donated their time to this worthy cause.


In Chico, Calif., local radio stations raised money with an on-air turkey pledge drive to purchase hundreds of turkeys for Salvation Army food baskets. The annual (and popular) “Bowling for Turkeys” at the Chico Holiday Supermarket resulted in additional donations of turkeys for Army food baskets.

In San Francisco, Calif., more than 4,000 seniors who live in downtown single-room occupancy hotels, as well as other parts of the city, received their own turkey dinner–thanks to the volunteers, who are residents of the Harbor Light Center for Alcoholism Services.

Harbor Light volunteers helped prepare the birds, make the gravy, mix the dressing, cook the vegetables, add fruit, a slice of chocolate cake and more. During the weeks beforehand, they tabulated the requests and scheduled the routes. About 300 other volunteers–families, singles and church groups­made the deliveries.

The mood in the kitchen is always intense. For many, it is the first time in months, maybe years, that they have spent a holiday clean and sober, out of jail, off the street, doing something for others, enjoying the camaraderie of peers. Harbor Light’s commitment, during the holidays and throughout the year, is to provide a safe, challenging, life-affirming place for recovery.


The Salvation Army Older Alaskans Meals on Wheels program delivers hot meals to homebound seniors and disabled adults in Anchorage every day of the year, including holidays. At 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the dining room at the Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Program was buzzing with activity as volunteers and staff packaged and counted traditional Thanksgiving meals–turkey and all–for delivery. By 10 a.m., crews headed out on icy and snowy roads to deliver hot meals and holiday cheer to nearly 250 homebound seniors. To make the holiday more special, clients were encouraged to invite a guest to join them for dinner, so for many, two meals were provided.

From reports by: Barbara Little, Daniel De Castro, Kathy Ries, Jenni Ragland, Leslie Fox, and Judy Vaughn

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