Jim Heath is hunting turkeys.
He doesn’t need a gun - these turkeys are taking up space in area freezers and grocery stores.
Heath, head of the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving food basket program which began Monday, would much rather see the birds on the Thanksgiving dinner tables of Spokane’s less fortunate.
He’s asking local residents to dig into their pockets and freezers to help out. The Salvation Army still is short about 1,600 turkeys.
The group distributes about 3,000 baskets each year in place of holding a community Thanksgiving dinner, Heath said.
“This keeps the family together,” he said. “Dinner might be made by a loving hand that wouldn’t have gotten to do that otherwise.”
While more than 1,200 people made their way through the line for food outside 1126 N. Monroe on Monday, Heath contemplated his dilemma.
The turkeys were moving fast. With two days left to hand out food baskets, the Salvation Army expects the biggest demand ever.
“We planned for more people because of WorkFirst and welfare reform. People are kind of running scared,” Heath said. “They don’t know what to expect, what’s around the corner.”
Changes in welfare laws, including the introduction of the WorkFirst program, have forced across-the-board cuts in food stamps, which many of Spokane’s working poor rely on.
Other than identification for all family members, there are no requirements to get the free food.
“Anyone is welcome,” Heath said. “We hope that we’re serving the poor and the people who truly cannot afford a big Thanksgiving dinner. But that’s the chance we take.”
Heath won’t even speculate on what would happen if the turkeys run out.
“We’ve never had that happen,” he said. “Everyone has always pulled through.”
Workers at other area food banks said they also would not let people go without.
The Salvation Army already has received 1,000 turkeys from the Spokane Food Bank, “and we’ll probably give that again if they need it,” said program manager Terry Moore. “We’re all trying to work together to make sure things happen.”
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THANKSGIVING HELP Anyone wanting a food basket can go to the Salvation Army distribution center, 1126 N. Monroe, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Wednesday. Picture identification for all family members and address verification are needed. Medical coupons will be accepted as identification for children. Anyone wanting to donate turkeys and other food may do so at the following Rosauer’s supermarket locations: South Hill - 2610 E. 29th North Side - 1724 W. Francis Spokane Valley - 10920 E. Sprague. Donations also may be dropped off at Salvation Army Headquarters, 222 E. Indiana, or from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the food distribution site. Here are some other opportunities for free Thanksgiving dinner: Full Gospel Mission, 1912 E. First, will give away turkeys from 1 to 6 p.m. today. The mission also will host a Thanksgiving Day dinner at noon following a 10 a.m. worship service. Phone: 534-2168. Union Gospel Mission, 1224 E. Trent, will serve Thanksgiving dinner at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A musical program at 6 will precede the dinner. A brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Phone: 535-8510. Cyrus O’Leary’s restaurant will be serving a free Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are required. Call Spike Cunningham at 624-0550. St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church will serve dinner from noon to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving at 5021 N. Nelson. Transportation is available from specific locations. Phone: 487-1325. Central United Methodist Church, 518 W. Third, will serve dinner from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Phone: 838-1431. City Gate, 114 S. Madison, will serve a Thanksgiving dinner from 1 to 5 p.m. Phone: 455-9670. St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, 2120 E. First, will serve dinner in the parish hall at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30. Phone: 535-3031. The Spokane Indian Bingo and Casino will host a Thanksgiving dinner from 1 to 6 p.m. Reservations are required; call (800) 322-2788 by Monday. The casino is located at the corner of Highway 395 and Smith Road in Chewelah.