Salvation Army hosts sit-down meal, drive-thru option

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 6:03 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Hundreds of people were fed Thursday as people gathered and gave thanks at the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal.

More than 200 turkeys and more than a hundred volunteers fed at least 800 people Thursday.

“I think it provides hope for people, and I think it gets little sense of normalcy,” said Jana VandenBranden, volunteer. “People that maybe don’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving can come in and feel loved and find some hope by sitting down and fellowshipping with other people and getting a warm meal.”

It’s a tradition that has been happening for decades. However, 2020 and 2021 have been very different from the normal course celebrations. This year included a sit-down dinner—though still outside. Jana and Gayle VandenBranden served and volunteered for the first time. Hundreds got food from their hands, like Fred Gunbart.

“It feels good, feels good except the wind,” said Fred Gunbart, who was partaking in the meal. “I don’t have any family in town…so I decided to come here.”

“It’s important because I think it’s bringing some kind of normal feeling to people’s lives,” said Gayle VandenBranden, volunteer. “We celebrate Thanksgiving, we get to go out and meet other people, so it’s much better than last year where you were all closed in.”

Even entertainment was back, missing from last year’s drive-thru only Thanksgiving meal. Still, hundreds lined the street this year, using the drive-in option.

“The last two years have been quite different from our traditional way of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas meal,” said David Oh, the Salvation Army Tucson area coordinator.

It could be a new normal, but organizers hope to eventually have an indoor dining option back in the years to come.

“I really hope, my prayer is, that we can have fully serve Thanksgiving inside and outside, and also provide a drive through,” said Oh.

Regardless of what the new normal is, the message is still the same: one of thanks and community.

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