Every year, hundreds of residents enjoy the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Dinner in Manitou Springs. Pictured here is last year’s holiday feast at City Hall. This year, the Thanksgiving Dinner will be from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Manitou Art Center’s Venue 515 at 515 Manitou Ave. The meal is free and open to the public.
Photos by Larry Ferguson
Andy Wells is looking forward to the big get-together, now that he’s invited hundreds of people over for Thanksgiving dinner.
“It’s really not that big a deal,” he said modestly while describing the array of preparations required to pull off the annual holiday feast. “Come on down and enjoy a hot meal, friendship and a good time.”
Wells, along with co-worker Dennis Klipp, is a coordinator for the Salvation Army’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Manitou Springs. His cheerful, matter-of- fact casualness disguises the logistical magnitude of planning a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixin’s for an expected 400 guests.
Just getting enough cooked turkeys to the right place at the right time can be a workout. Just ask the volunteers who pick them up at 4 a.m. at Fort Carson.
But Wells, who has seven years of experience staging the event in Manitou Springs, seems reasonably confident that everything will go smoothly at the dinner, which is free and open to the public. It is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. this Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, at Venue 515 of the Manitou Art Center at 515 Manitou Ave.
This year’s location is a new one for the holiday feast. In previous years it was held at Memorial Hall in the Manitou Springs City Hall building. It is one of three free Thanksgiving dinners sponsored by the Salvation Army in the Pikes Peak Region. Others are planned at the Salvation Army building at 908 Yuma St. and at the Fountain Valley Senior Center, 5725 Southmoor Drive in Fountain.
Free meals are also planned at the three locations on Christmas Day.
Wells, who has been helping organize the Thanksgiving and Christmas events ever since Bud and Donna Ford stepped down after coordinating the dinners for 13 years, said he expects about 75 to 80 volunteers to help this year.
“Most sign up online,” he said, “but there’s always some that just show up on Thanksgiving Day asking, ‘What can I do?’”
Among the many tasks handled by the volunteers are jobs setting up serving equipment, serving the food, picking up and washing dishes, cutting salad ingredients, pouring drinks and keeping the dessert table stocked. Volunteer drivers deliver dinners to the homes of people who for a variety of reasons can’t attend, and they also provide transportation to the dinner location for those who need it.
Wells said volunteers also deliver meals to business employees who have to work on Thanksgiving, “trapped behind cash registers.”
Wells and Klipp also depend on a network of amateur (ham) radio operators who are in touch with the other Salvation Army holiday dinner locations so that food and equipment can be easily transferred from one location to another, if needed.
Most of the food, including the turkeys, is supplied by the Salvation Army, prepared by military cooks at Fort Carson and delivered by volunteers to dinner locations. Some of it is purchased with money raised at community fundraisers, including one sponsored by Manitou Springs School District 14.
“And I always ask local businesses to help out,” Wells added. “They see my face every year.
“We’re also currently collecting canned goods and winter coats to be given away,” he continued. In addition, the organizers are collecting toys that will be distributed at the Christmas dinner. Collection boxes for the giveaway items are located at the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, Manitou Art Center and Loaf ‘N Jug.
“We’re very thankful we can provide this holiday dinner for the community,” Wells said, speaking on behalf of the Salvation Army and the group of volunteers that make it possible every year.
“Manitou Springs has always been a generous, giving community.”
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