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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Thanksgiving to-go: Meal distributions continue in a distanced way in Spokane this year

Volunteers Brandon Stover, left, and Lauren Stover, far right, join Salvation Army mascot Kettleman and Maj. Ken Perine in serving hot Thanksgiving meals to drive-through recipients Thursday at the Salvation Army headquarters in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Cars lined up to get Thanksgiving meals to go at the Salvation Army on Thursday afternoon, and just an hour into the drive-through giveaway, more than half of the meals were already gone.

Beth Burright was working inside the mission control trailer, where she and other volunteers served up Thanksgiving meals into polystyrene containers, handing them out to volunteer servers who would take the meals to cars.

Other volunteers would run fresh, hot trays of turkey, potatoes and green beans out from the Salvation Army kitchen to the trailer. Individually packaged pieces of pie, as well as boxes of cocoa, Powerade and water, were also provided for families in need.

Burright has been volunteering at the Salvation Army since March, when the pandemic brought with it a wave of need for both volunteers and donations. She works at the Salvation Army food bank once a week and has seen many community members who have lost their jobs because of lockdowns and shutdowns.

“The lockdowns have been really hard on people, and it’s not enough to sit around and talk,” Burright said. “You’ve got to do something about it.”

Thanksgiving was an opportunity for Burright to give back again, along with one of her sons, who helped direct traffic. Her other son works at a grocery store, and her husband, a pilot, was working too. She and her family planned for a homemade pizza dinner later that evening, she said, noting she would save the turkey for Christmas this year.

During past Thanksgivings, the Salvation Army opened up its gym and multipurpose room for a big community meal, but this year with Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining, they had to pivot.

The kitchen staff at Salvation Army prepared 250 meals to give away on Thursday, and people could drive through or walk up to get them. People who walked up to get meals could take them to go or eat indoors distanced from others.

Major Ken Perine, corps officer at the Spokane Salvation Army, said they got about 25 volunteers to help distribute meals and tried to keep family units volunteering separated from one another. Volunteers wore masks and primarily stayed in their duos.

Perine said he would miss serving seniors from the community this year in person.

“This is a time for them to get out and be around other people, and this year, we can’t do that,” he said.

The Salvation Army Thanksgiving meals were for anyone in the community in need, and dozens of cars circled into the parking lot. Two volunteers would run up to the car and take an order: how many people they needed food for and whether they wanted some beverages. Then they would return to the trailer and deliver them into vehicles.

Perine said the Salvation Army food bank, which gives out food to about 2,000 to 2,500 families a month, has seen an increase in demand and need this fall, especially with the loss of federal unemployment bonuses of $600, and then again with Gov. Jay Inslee’s November restrictions closing indoor dining at restaurants and impacting the service industry in Washington state.

“We’ve seen an increase in people needing assistance and people who haven’t been here before that work in restaurants or the mall and have lost their jobs,” Perine said.

“It’s a little bit of a scary time,” he added.

During the holiday season, the Salvation Army is well-known for its kettles and bell-ringers raising money for the nonprofit. Perine said the Spokane Salvation Army has only raised about half of what it normally does this time of year, which is “not good.”

“We use that money throughout the whole year,” Perine said.

The distanced Thanksgiving holiday many are having to follow gathering restrictions in Washington is what some Spokane residents were already experiencing in isolation or quarantine due to a positive or pending COVID-19 test.

Catholic Charities is serving traditional Thanksgiving meals to those at the Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, where 39 people are in isolation.

The center, which opened as an isolation facility this summer, is housing people who need to isolate or quarantine who are experiencing homelessness or have behavioral health needs. Since Sept. 14, 169 patients have quarantined there.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.