By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Another big turnout for the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving luncheon was both good and bad.
Hundreds of volunteers helped plate, serve and deliver more than 3,000 meals at the nonprofit agency’s 44th annual event on Thursday. But it also meant there were more people than ever who were hungry.
“We started around 6 in the morning, and there were people waiting in line before 7,” said volunteer Jennie Lynn Johnson.
A still uncertain economy also puts pressure on the Salvation Army to keep not only the Thanksgiving luncheon up and running, but also the daily free meals.
“We serve three meals a day, seven days a week, about a 150 meals a day,” said Salvation Army Maj. Sue Dorman. “We can never have enough volunteers.”
They also can never have enough donations – whether it’s food or money – to help feed the underprivileged.
“We’ve been blessed to have so many churches, restaurants, businesses and individuals be so generous,” Johnson said. “Even with all that, the Thanksgiving luncheon alone will cost us $6,000 or more. We have to pay for that in advance. So, you see, every donation helps. Every little bit helps.”
Volunteers, of course, are priceless. Scores of them were darting in and out of the Salvation Army’s facility on Carnation Street to deliver meals across the area. Others were in the kitchen cooking and putting together the plates of turkey, dressing yams, pea salad, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes rolls and dessert.
Among the volunteers was 12-year-old Tyler Visentin. Six years ago, his grandmother, Jan Englert of Tupelo, brought him to the Salvation Army on Thanksgiving Day to help. Having recently moved from Seattle to Saltillo, Tyler remembered that day well.
“I wanted to help the community,” he said. “But I remember it being smaller than what it is now.”
Said Englert, “That first time here left an impression on him, and he even brought his younger brother out this year.”
Community volunteers aren’t the only ones lending a helping hand. Some of the people helped by the Salvation Army also give back, helping out any way then can with the Thanksgiving luncheon.
“One lady wanted three meals to take to her kids, and she reached in her pocket and gave us everything she had – $1.08,” Johnson said. “She said, ‘maybe you can help somebody else. You don’t know how much this means to me.’
“That’s why this is so important for us to have,” Johnson said.