Salvation Army Volunteers Serve Up Thanksgiving Meals

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Captain Craig Summerfield along with his wife Marianneke serve some guests during this years Thanksgiving Dinner. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Burbank Salvation Army’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner Wednesday night went off without a glitch, in spite of a four-year hiatus.

Captain Craig Summerfield along with his wife Marianneke serve some guests during this years Thanksgiving Dinner. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Captain Craig Summerfield along with his wife Marianneke serve some guests during this years Thanksgiving Dinner. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Captains Craig and Marianneke Summerfield attributed that success to the people of Burbank who rally around integral causes and to the businesses that made it happen — the Holiday Inn of Burbank-Media Center, Aramark and nonprofit organization Big Citizen Hub.

A total of 65 volunteers served the food and welcomed 170 community members –families, individuals and the homeless — who enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast of turkey and all the fixings — especially pumpkin pie.

This was the Summerfield’s first Thanksgiving Community Dinner, since they have only been with the Burbank Salvation Army for 18 months.

“It’s been great that the community has come together so well,” he said. “You expect some hiccups –but it’s gone so smooth tonight — it’s been amazing!” Capt. Craig Summerfield said. “All the volunteers who came out and the people who came out with their families — it’s just been fantastic!”

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Daniel Candelas attended the dinner with more than 15 of his family members. He is employed by a moving company and often people can’t take all their belongings and so he drops off the items to Salvation Army donation centers throughout the area.

“The people here have great spirit and I’ve enjoyed being here with my family,” he said. “We really appreciate this meal.”

The moving industry has been slow since the summer, so he and his family are having a difficult time financially this year, he said.

The Salvation Army Community Advisory Board was interested in reviving the decades-old Community Thanksgiving Dinner and with members making calls, the project came together swiftly, Capt. Craig Summerfield said.

Holiday Inn catered the meal, and it also conducts a food drive and toy drive for the Salvation Army each holiday season, he said.

Members of The Rotary Club that were on hand to help serve meals this Thanksgiving. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Members of The Rotary Club that were on hand to help serve meals this Thanksgiving. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I’m a Rotarian and we have our meetings there,” he added.

Aramark heard about the dinner and called the Salvation Army in October and asked if they could provide volunteers, Capt. Marianneke Summerfield said.

Of the 65 volunteers who participated, about 50 were from Aramark. Also volunteering were members of the Burbank Sunrise Rotary and the Interact Club, Rotary’s youth club.

“The Rotary club is really a champion for us,” she said.

Lee Stacy, a member of the Community Advisory Board for the Salvation Army and past president of the Burbank Sunrise Rotary Club, was greeting people as they arrived.

“I asked them how they heard about the dinner because since this is the first year we’ve done this after four years of being dark, we were a little nervous about what the turnout might be,” he said. “But I was pretty excited to be near 200. And Aramark — what a great organization to help us out.”

Stacy hopes publicity provided by local news sources and word of mouth that they will see the number rise to 400 next year, he said.

They had enough food for 400 plates. In addition to the 170 community meals, about 100 meals went to volunteer servers and about one dozen meals went to the Burbank Bike Angels, whose members refurbish bikes that are donated to kids each holiday season, Capt. Marianneke Summerfield said.

The leftover food will be going to other Thanksgiving meals planned by Burbank organizations on Thanksgiving Day, she added.

Volunteers were enjoying a chance to give back to the community and expressed what they are grateful for this holiday.

Norah Flynn was volunteering at the dinner for the first time, she said.

“I had a table with two other volunteers,” she said. “Our table was the best one. We were excited and it is very emotional.”

She plans to come back next year and bring several family members to volunteer.

Longtime Aramark employee Carol Schlichting was charmed by a mother and her two small daughters who came to the dinner.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“They were so cute. The little girl ate a little bit of her turkey and looked up and she wanted her pie, I asked her ‘do you want your pie?’ and she said ‘I want pumpkin pie!’ ”

Michealene “Mikey” Melus, also an Aramark employee, enjoyed seeing the families come in for their meal and especially the homeless people, she said.

“The homeless sit together, they have their own little families and they all know each other,” she said.

Melus is most grateful for her family, friends and the Lord and that she is blessed to have so much that she is able to help others, she said.

“So many people came up and expressed heartfelt thanks to have the dinner back — there is such a need,” said Janice Lowers, a member of Sunrise Rotary and the Community Advisory Board.

Lowers is most grateful this Thanksgiving for her family, friends and good health.

“And this community –Burbank always comes together to do the right thing by our community. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Barbara Thomer gets some help with the Whip Cream from Mark Benson at the Salvation Army's Thanksgiving Dinner. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Barbara Thomer gets some help with the Whip Cream from Mark Benson at the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Dinner. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Seeing the event come together gives a volunteer a strong sense of accomplishment, Rotarian Stacy said.

“Being in Rotary, we’ve got little projects and big projects but this is a more hands-on project. This is getting down to the grassroots of the community — so it really makes you feel good,” he said. “And you see people who really need some help and need a meal and those who are less fortunate. You know that you are making their holidays a little brighter and they are leaving with full tummies too.”