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Disadvantaged enjoy holiday meal, fellowship

John “Jake” Rob is served mashed potatoes and turkey by Kiley Miller at The Salvation Army in Butler on Wednesday, Nov. 23. “I already had seconds,” Rob said. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

People in Butler who might not otherwise have a Thanksgiving meal not only chowed down on turkey and all the trimmings on Wednesday, but enjoyed doing so in the company of others in the partaking of the meal.

The annual Salvation Army of Butler’s free Thanksgiving dinner event was from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army hall on West Cunningham Street.

Major Darlene Means could be seen rushing from the hot pans of food to the takeout containers to the cold drink bag and back again Wednesday, as small groups of people, or people on their own entered the hall to eat or pick up a meal.

“Some people don’t have a Thanksgiving dinner or way to prepare it, so we feel this is something nice for them,” Means said.

She said the event, which has been held for more than 25 years, normally attracts 75 to 100 people each year.

There are no income requirements or questions for people who come in to get a meal.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn, yams, salad, pumpkin pie and a drink came with the meal, prepared by Salvation Army volunteers and office staff, as the organization is currently looking for someone to fill the paid cook position.

Hiring a cook also would allow the Salvation Army to provide noontime meals Monday through Friday, instead of the current Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

On Wednesday, Joe Hockenberry tucked into his Thanksgiving feast, which is served on a festive holiday-themed plate.

Hockenberry was struck by a car at work and has not yet received his state Workers’ Compensation funding, which leaves him in a tight spot since he is on a fixed income.

Hockenberry bemoaned the current cost of food, fuel and everything else, which is not helping his situation.

“People with families, I don’t know how they are doing it,” he said.

Hockenberry takes advantage of the Salvation Army noontime meals as often as possible.

“I’m very thankful for (the meals),” he said. “I think there are a lot of people who wouldn’t eat if this wasn’t available to us.”

Ed Bell sat across from Hockenberry, and the two exchanged “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes when the latter departed.

Bell has partaken of the Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinners for 25 years.

“I also like to socialize,” Bell said. “I appreciate it a lot. I appreciate that I get to come here to eat.”

The senior planned to be alone on Thanksgiving, as his nearest relative is in Harrisville, and he had no plans to celebrate the holiday there.

Means uses the services of teenage members of various groups to volunteer at the dinner each year.

On Wednesday, six of Butler Senior High School’s Junior ROTC members helped out at the event.

“I think it’s good because they can see the people we are serving in the community, and it gives them a chance to help support the community,” Means said.

Butler Senior High freshmen and first-year ROTC members Alexander Beggs and Emma Hesidenz were among the teens scurrying around the Salvation Army’s hall.

Alexander said ROTC members were given six options for their required community service project.

“I chose the turkey dinner because it’s nice to interact and see what other people are going through,” he said. “It helps me learn that every life is different.”

Emma said helping the disadvantaged enjoy a Thanksgiving feast made her feel good.

“I wanted to help give back to the people who really are in need,” she said.

Emma hopes those suffering any shortfall seek out assistance.

“There are good people out there who can help you,” she said.

Jack Ferguson, of Butler, waits for a to-go meal at The Salvation Army in Butler on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Ferguson said, “It's nice. They're great, they're great everyday.” Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
Ed Bell eats Thanksgiving lunch at The Salvation Army in Butler on Wednesday, Nov. 23. “Pretty good, the price is right; it's always good,” joked Bell. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

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