WACO, Texas — The Salvation Army in Waco will provide free sit-and-go or take-out Thanksgiving meals to community members from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army Community Kitchen on 300 Webster Avenue.
The Salvation Army says everyone in the community is welcome whether they’re without a home, without a meal, or without company to share their Thanksgiving.
Felicia Hooks is the Kitchen Manager at the Salvation Army’s Community Kitchen in Waco.
"We are cutting turkeys until the cows come home, or until my volunteer goes home, one of the two," Hooks said on Wednesday ahead of the Thanksgiving Day feast.
“We have cut these so that each piece of turkey is a serving and our volunteers won’t have to guess how much to put on the plates,” Hooks said on Wednesday as she continued the task of preparing portions.
"We've got a couple of the sides done and we still have some green bean casserole and a couple of sides to do," Hooks said. "That will be done by our wonderful volunteers who are coming in, and once we get that taken care of everything will just be a matter of warming up."
With a smile on her face, Hooks continued cutting the turkey, and describing the Thanksgiving Day meal guest will discover if they come to the community kitchen between 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
“We are having turkey, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and rolls,” she said. “And oh, so many pies, this Waco area has been so generous. We have got pumpkin and pecan and apple.”
Guests who choose to sit-and-go underneath the tent at the community kitchen will be served restaurant-style, by volunteers lending their time on Thanksgiving Day to help out.
“That’s one of the things that's special is that we bring the food out to the table,” Hooks explained. “They get to sit there and have us serve them.”
Hooks has seen the selflessness of volunteers on Thanksgiving Day firsthand. Last year, she was a volunteer herself here at the community kitchen on Thanksgiving.
"I was a volunteer last Turkey Day," she explained. "I came out about two days before and helped prep and then stayed for the Turkey Day, and stayed for the cleanup. This year, I'll do the same thing."
And this year will be the first Thanksgiving as the Community Kitchen Manager, a position she describes as her dream job.
“This is my dream job,” she said. “This is my favorite job.”
Hooks has been working non-stop for a little more than a week in preparing this year's Thanksgiving meals. Although a stretch of work, she said, she doesn't regret the period of work one bit because of how much it's appreciated it is by the people she sees come to the kitchen.
"Maybe someone lost their job and they lost their home or both," she explained. "There's a lot of that going around right now, and this gives them some family. It gives them that sense of coming to the table, having your warm plate, having the camaraderie of the people around you. It means a lot."
And on Thanksgiving, the meal means a little bit more, as each bite arrives with feeling.
"That feeling of home, that feeling of everything else in the day is going really bad, but I know that I can go to the Salvation Army and I'm getting my hot meal."
Hooks says the emotional component goes both ways from her kitchen to the dinner table and right back. And she recalls years providing her own family, her kids, and now her husband Thanksgiving Day meals. Now she feels like her family is growing, just a little bit bigger this Thanksgiving.
"These guys are my family," she said. "These guys are my brothers." These guys are my brothers, Jesus said, feed my sheep, and I truly take that to heart."
You can view more information on today's Thanksgiving Day Community Luncheon, from 11 am to 1 pm, at the Salvation Army Community Kitchen on 300 Webster Avenue in Waco at the flyer below. The Salvation Army says rain or shine, meals go out to those who arrive, and there will be accommodations such as covered seating made for the possibility of rainy weather.