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Milestone for Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving tradition

After 23 years, firefighters cook final meal in Salvation Army’s current building before move to Journey to Life centre
Salvation Army Thanksgiving
Volunteers with the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association prepare Thanksgiving meals at the Salvation Army Sunday. (Ian Kaufman, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – The Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving community dinner proved as popular as ever Sunday, despite ditching communal dining in favour of a to-go model due to COVID-19.

Volunteers were on track to serve over 350 meals Sunday afternoon, similar to previous years’ totals. Residents at the Salvation Army’s on-site shelter were able to sit inside to eat, while others took the meal to go.

“It’s the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, stuffing – the perfect meal,” said Kevin Anderson, head of public relations for the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association.

Members of the association have volunteered to prepare the meal alongside family members for the past 23 years.

One of those family members, Gloria, whose husband is a retired firefighter, has watched the tradition grow and be passed on to new members since the beginning. She believes the event offers a chance to connect with the community outside of the line of duty.

“They see those faces every day in their jobs,” she said, “but to see the social challenges people face and to interact in a different way I think is a really valuable experience for those who have not had that challenge in their own lives.”

The community dinner marked a milestone this year, with volunteers cooking their last meal in the charity’s aging Cumberland Street headquarters. Operations are set to move to the new $15.5-million, 30,000 square-foot Journey to Life Centre next door on Friday.

The existing building will be demolished to make room for parking and a community garden.