TO PERFECTION–Ernie Marx and Terry Lowry agree this turkey is cooked to perfection.
BY JUDY VAUGHN –
The new director of San Francisco’s Harbor Light Center, Lt. Phil Smith, reports that he’s looking forward to Thanksgiving this year in a program which has made many friends for the Army over they years.
Thanksgiving Day at Harbor Light is an opportunity for 100 alcoholics in recovery plus 300 people looking for a meaning full way to spend the holiday to prepare and deliver meals for up to 3,000 seniors and disabled people. Capt. Richard Reuer will coordinate the effort.
The Harbor Light program begins the holiday with the carving of the birds, 100 of them lined up on tables ready for the knife. Ernie Marx, a retired butcher who has been on Harbor Light’s Advisory Council for 36 years, is the master carver. In recent times, Bay Area media personality Terry Lowry has brought in off-duty firefighters to assist, along with service clubs and individual volunteers.
Residents of the house get their first real taste of the holiday spirit on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. It’s their job to package condiments and fruit that will go into the delivery boxes. By the time the event begins in earnest early Thursday morning, they’re involved in every aspect of the day–staffing the kitchen, ladling food, filling boxes, marking delivery routes, directing the lines of volunteers. The mood of the kitchen is intense. For many of the residents, it will be the first time in months, maybe years, that they have spent a holiday sober, doing something for other people, enjoying the camaraderie of peers.
In the front chapel, the mood is special as well. Volunteers are urged to put their turkeys in their ovens at home before they come. They arrive by 8AM and by noon they’ve made their deliveries and are on their way home to put finishing touches on their own cranberries and dressing. An increasing number of families participate. Parents look for ways to get their children involved in community service. One year, a man arrived with four children from three different marriages in three different states. They spent the day together and, under the umbrella of Harbor Light, were a family again. Singles are welcomed. Some come as a group and go out for dinner afterwards. It’s an opportunity to meet people. When you don’t have a family, The Salvation Army is a good place to be.
Back in the kitchen towards the end of the morning, the emotion of being involved in so positive an event usually begins to get to the volunteers. One year, as the last sweet potatoes were being dished up, the last green beans, and the last turkey, an NBC camera crew arrived. The volunteers were singing “Stand By Me” with unbridled enthusiasm. The words echoed the mission of the program. By the time alcoholics reach Harbor Light, they’ve usually been through years of pain. Harbor Light’s commitment, during the holidays and throughout the year, is to provide a safe, challenging, life-affirming place for recovery.