PORT ANGELES — Scores of people eager for a hot turkey meal piled into the Salvation Army in Port Angeles on Wednesday.
The meal, which served about 212 this year, was the culmination of about a week’s worth of planning and preparing, said Major Ron Wehnau. The meal was made possible by approximately 24 volunteers.
“We have a surprisingly large staff of volunteers who came in wanting to help out,” he said, adding that the Salvation Army has only four staff members.
“All of our services are run by volunteers with us supervising. Especially with big events like this, it’s critical to have volunteers.”
Wehnau said the Salvation Army primarily serves the homeless population, but its doors were open to anyone who wanted to participate in the annual community meal.
Wehnau said many of those who attend the dinner might not have families to have Thanksgiving with or be able to have their own dinner.
“The Salvation Army first and foremost is a church, and our role within the community is to reach out to those who don’t have families and don’t have the resources to make it,” he said.
“Being able to bridge that gap and invite everyone in to a community meal is just a wonderful feeling.”
He said staff and volunteers cooked 14 turkeys and about 20 gallons of mashed potatoes and gravy. With the turkey dinner, guests were also offered pie that had been cooked earlier this week.
For Melinda Nettleton, who volunteers at the Salvation Army, the annual Thanksgiving dinner serves up hope.
Nettleton said she couldn’t find words to express her gratitude for being able to volunteer at the dinner, adding that’s what God wants her to do.
“[The dinner] is providing hope,” she said. “It’s providing the blessed assurance that we can still come together and that we are still cared for.”
She said that at the Salvation Army, the doors are open to anyone.
“This is a safe place,” she said. “I don’t care who comes through these doors, you’re safe here.”
Nettleton mentioned issues such as suicide, overdoses and homelessness. She said those issues are always on her mind and that they affect many of the people she sees regularly at the Salvation Army.
“You start to feel the hopelessness with all of it and not knowing what to do,” she said. “All you can do is keep bringing what you know to be real and true, and that is love and compassion.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.