HELENA — A Helena community tradition made its return this year, as the Salvation Army welcomed people back for an in-person Thanksgiving dinner.
There was a buzz in the Salvation Army gymnasium Thursday, with warm food and warm feelings in abundance. Volunteers piled plates with turkey, potatoes, stuffing and gravy. They prepared dozens of portions of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. They then carried the plates out to serve their guests.
“I think that’s the beauty of a Thanksgiving meal, is to be served,” said Cindy Sparing, a member of the Helena Salvation Army’s advisory board. “It’s always nice to be served a meal, and that somebody else cooks and cleans up – and if it’s Thanksgiving, it’s even better.”
Sparing says they didn’t offer a meal in 2019 because of a leadership transition, and in 2020, it didn’t happen because of the pandemic. In 2021, they brought the event back, but offered the meals for drive-by pickups due to continued COVID precautions.
Sparing said it was great to have people sharing the celebration together again. She said many of the people who came for the meal enjoyed having people to eat with and visit with.
“It’s a holiday, and it’s lovely to take holiday with someone, so this is an opportunity to do that,” she said.
Theresa Gardner was on hand Thursday, helping out with setting up tables.
“I just like to help the community celebrate Thanksgiving with one another, as a community event,” she said.
All in all, leaders estimate they had 40 to 50 volunteers working. Sparing said they even had to turn some away.
“A lot of these people I’ve never met before – there’s no affiliation with Salvation Army, it’s just an opportunity to come out and to serve somebody and do something, a community service on Thanksgiving Day,” she said.
By the end of the day, the Salvation Army had served 181 meals. That’s about 20 more than they gave out during last year’s drive-up event.
“Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for everybody to help and come to eat with us!” said Gardner.