HELENA — The day before Thanksgiving, turkeys were already in the ovens at the Salvation Army in Helena, as they got ready for the return of their community Thanksgiving meal.
“We’re going to be here for a while,” said Maj. Brian West on Wednesday afternoon.
West was hard at work in the kitchen, alongside Salvation Army volunteers. This is his first Thanksgiving meal since he took over as Helena corps officer in July.
“I never dreamed I’d be in Helena, Montana, but we’re excited to be here,” he said.
The meal is a big production. In previous years, the Salvation Army has served between 125 and 190 people each Thanksgiving.
“Maybe they’re homeless, maybe they’re transitioning or moving – they just didn’t have a place to have a meal,” said West. “We wanted to make sure that we met that need.”
They are planning 25 turkeys, more than 100 pounds of potatoes, plenty of green beans and cranberry sauce, and 20 pumpkin pies.
This year, because of COVID precautions, people will drive up and pick up their meals to go.
“This is the best way to bring back the Thanksgiving meal and keep everybody safe,” West said. “We’re happy to do it; we’re glad that we’re having a Thanksgiving meal again.”
Volunteers cooked and carved the turkeys on Wednesday. On Thursday, they’ll heat the food up to be ready to go out.
“It was strategically planned – do a day, and then the next day serve – so we could pull it off,” said West.
Because of their limited kitchen space, the Salvation Army cooked half of the turkeys themselves, while people in the community cooked the rest and dropped them off.
“We’ve got community churches involved, we’ve got supporters, we’ve got local church members involved,” said West. “That’s so nice, about the community coming together on this wonderful Thanksgiving meal.”
The Salvation Army will be serving meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving. West said they are also going to be delivering meals directly to some people.
This will not be the only community meal available in Helena. God’s Love Shelter is holding its annual Thanksgiving meal Thursday at 1 p.m.