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‘It’s safe to come out’: Charities adjust Thanksgiving plans during pandemic

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 24, 2020

Salvation Army Major Ken Perine looks over food boxes packed and ready for delivery inside the SA food bank Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020. An increase in daily requests for help, which have increased from around 75 to around 120 each day, reflect the number of families who have been hit hard by layoffs caused by the downtown in the economy under shutdown because of the coronavirus. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Salvation Army Major Ken Perine looks over food boxes packed and ready for delivery inside the SA food bank Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020. An increase in daily requests for help, which have increased from around 75 to around 120 each day, reflect the number of families who have been hit hard by layoffs caused by the downtown in the economy under shutdown because of the coronavirus. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The Salvation Army had it all planned out.

Mindful of COVID-19, the nonprofit still planned to host its annual Thanksgiving meal indoors, only with social distancing measures in place to ensure guests were spaced out.

Then, as the sharp uptick in cases continued unabated across Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee issued deeper restrictions on indoor gatherings and dining on Nov. 15.

“That kind of changed all of our plans all of a sudden,” said Salvation Army Maj. Ken Perrine.

Now, The Salvation Army is offering a drive-through or walk-up Thanksgiving meal in the parking lot of its Indiana Avenue headquarters. Volunteers are ready to hand out hundreds of hot meals with all the fixings.

“This year, it’s a little bit – well, not a little bit different, it’s quite a bit different,” Perrine said. “We have no idea how that’s going to work.”

It’s not that Perrine is doubtful volunteers are capable of packaging and dishing out food. Perrine worries those in need of a hot Thanksgiving meal will be too worried about the virus to come out and grab one.

The walk-up line will be socially distanced, he stressed, and the nonprofit even plans to use propane heaters to keep the cold at bay. Volunteers will be separated in pods contained to members of their own household, he added.

“It’s safe to come out,” Perrine stressed.

Food will be distributed starting at 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m., or until supplies run out in the parking lot at 222 E. Indiana Ave.

The Salvation Army is just one of several local nonprofits and service providers working to make Thanksgiving traditions safe during the pandemic.

Catholic Charities has to cancel the usual Thanksgiving gathering at the cafeteria of its Rising Strong drug treatment and housing program, as well as the annual Thanksgiving lunch at St. Anne’s Children & Family Center for children, parents and staff, according to Sarah Yerden, a spokesperson for the nonprofit.

But a meal funded by Sodexo and St. Aloysius Parish will be offered to current guests at the House of Charity shelter downtown, each spaced 6 feet apart. Those staying at the COVID-19 isolation facility at the Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, also operated by Catholic Charities, will not be left out.

“Everything is different this year, but one thing is the same. We will continue to adapt our services and programs to serve the most vulnerable members of our community,” Yerden said.

The pandemic hasn’t dampened spirits.

Several residents at one of Catholic Charities’ affordable housing complexes solicited donations to prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to their neighbors last week. Gonzaga Prep students will be delivering meals to Catholic Charities residents, according to Yerden.

At Volunteers of America, its Crosswalk shelter for teens and the Hope House women’s shelter are already operating at a reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements. The silver lining of that reduced capacity is that everyone will still sit down for the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

But the nonprofit’s array of permanent supportive housing units and veterans programs were forced to scrap the annual Thanksgiving get-together. Instead, Volunteers of America staff will deliver individual meals.

Nonprofits are already looking forward and asking for help.

Volunteers are always needed at The Salvation Army’s food bank, Perrine said.

At Volunteers of America, staff are working to ensure that everyone has a gift to open during the holidays.

“Christmas is just right behind (Thanksgiving), so we definitely need Holiday stocking sponsors,” said Rae-Lynn Barden, a spokesperson for the nonprofit.

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