The line for the free community dinner at the Salvation Army on Tuesday quickly formed and just as quickly dissipated as people were shown to their tables and efficiently served their lasagna dinner by volunteers.
The event was among more than 100 volunteer opportunities taking place this week as part of Spokane Gives Week, which kicked off Saturday with about 400 volunteers cleaning up the downtown core in advance of upcoming community parades and events.
This week shines the light on volunteer work that already happens across the community and encourages people to join, said city spokesman Brian Coddington. A new website has been launched at spokanegives.org to allow people to register to volunteer at events happening this week and in the future.
The effort was launched by Mayor David Condon. “It’s something he’s seen in other communities,” Coddington said. “We’re trying to lay some foundation for future years.”
Tuesday’s dinner included volunteers from Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Action and Service Learning, the Sodexo Foundation and the community.
Gonzaga sophomore Lisa Dimech was at the dinner to put on a red volunteer T-shirt and serve meals. “It’s kind of a way to get to know the community,” she said. “I’m hoping to build connections with people I don’t know.”
Melissa Olmos was first in line with her four children. The free dinner gave her a night off from cooking and helped stretch her food budget, she said. “I’m grateful for it,” Olmos said. “I think it’s great for people to come together and help those in need.”
The Salvation Army is no stranger to free community dinners, said spokeswoman Heather Byrd, but this time they were prepared to serve up to 400 people. “It gave us the opportunity to partner with Gonzaga and Sodexo to do a bigger and better community dinner,” she said. “Their chef is in our kitchen preparing all the food.”
The organization did the meal as part of Spokane Gives Week in part to attract new volunteers who might come back to the Salvation Army or another organization in the future and help out, Byrd said. “We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” she said.
More than 2,600 people have registered at the Spokane Gives website, Coddington said. “There are still opportunities for people to get involved.”