Thanksgiving offers camaraderie, volunteerism

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The ladies of The Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary are not the least bit afraid of getting their hands dirty.
The group was hard at work Thursday, preparing more than 45 aluminum deep dishes-worth of dressing for the nonprofit’s annual Thanksgiving meal. It will be served at Salvation Army’s community center at 527 Carnation St. in Tupelo at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
“We usually serve around 2,000 people at this meal,” said volunteer Janie Smith. They serve, “people who are hungry or alone at Thanksgiving, even hospital workers, policemen and firefighters who have to work on the holiday.”
She said volunteers come from everywhere to assist with the meal, but more are always needed and should call (662) 680-2769 to help.
“Just call the Army and we’ll draft you,” Smith said.
For those who may be sad they didn’t get to help fix dressing, fear not. The auxiliary will be in full swing again Thanksgiving morning before the meal, preparing turkeys in the community center.
Also preparing to welcome the masses are various church communities and civic groups throughout Tupelo. The Tupelo Community Thanksgiving Service welcomes residents from all walks of life to meet for a simple celebration of gratitude on Monday at St. Paul United Methodist Church, located at 502 N. Spring St.
“We are welcoming not just churches, but the whole community as one diverse group,” said the Rev. Gloria McKinney, pastor of St. Paul. “This is a time where we can set our differences aside and appreciate each other as God’s creation.”
The service originally grew out of the efforts of a biracial committee in the late 1960s to promote better race relations. Over the years the committee disbanded and responsibility for the Thanksgiving service changed hands in the religious community for years until Mayor Jack Reed Jr. reclaimed it as a civic responsibility.
The service will last from noon to 1 p.m., and will conclude with light refreshments and fellowship.
Volunteerism continues, especially with The Salvation Army, long after the last turkey leg is put in the freezer. In the time until Christmas, the nonprofit will ramp up efforts with iconic bell-ringers and the Angel Tree that’s set up in The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
Christmas lists from families in need hang on the Angel Tree for mall shoppers to “adopt” that family and get them gifts. Susan Gilbert, Salvation Army’s social services director, said the lists include basic items and usually costs a donor around $75.
Gilbert said the Army’s biggest need this season is for volunteers to stand outside the entrances of businesses and collect donations from shoppers.
“If we don’t have volunteers, then we have to hire people,” Gilbert said. “We don’t mind giving people jobs, but it’s less money in our pocket to help people with.”
riley.manning@journalinc.com