Free turkey feast
is a labor of love

Hundreds turn up for a chance to volunteer
for the annual Salvation Army event

Food bank's turkeys arrive for needy

By Nelson Daranciang

In 32 years the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving feast has grown fivefold, to about 2,500 meals this year from 500 in 1971.

Yesterday's free meals required 900 pounds of turkey, 550 pounds of stuffing, 35 gallons of gravy, 400 pounds of rice (before cooking), 100 gallons of canned vegetables, 250 dozen dinner rolls, 100 gallons of fruit punch, 30 pounds of coffee, 300 pumpkin pies and a whole bunch of other good eats.

Plus an army of volunteers.

More than 800 people volunteered to prepare the annual celebration at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall yesterday.

They were the lucky ones; hundreds more had to be turned away because they tried to enlist too late.

"That's the most difficult part of my job. I hate it," said Jan Young, volunteer coordinator, about turning away volunteers.

There is no guarantee that previous volunteers, whether they are organizations or individuals, will get preferences, she said.

"It's strictly on a first-come basis," she added, apologetically.

College and high school student organizations take on the annual feast as their community service project. Volunteers must be 16 years or older. But elementary school children are allowed to help by making the place settings.

The volunteers do more than serve the meals. Some decorate the hall or prepare party favors, while others help out with crowd control. Some others spend time on the phone and tend to paperwork, making sure the food and flower donations arrive in time.

Young and her husband, longtime members of the Salvation Army, have made volunteering at the dinner a yearly family affair.

Her husband, Gordon, has been a volunteer since 1971. She began in 1972 on the assembly line, putting the food on plates.

She was "promoted" to waitress, then head waitress before being tapped as the volunteer coordinator.

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