An unexpected day of feasting

The organization is incredible. When volunteers check in, they’re given a name tag along with their volunteer assignment: Greeters, and seaters, and beverage pourers, and servers, and pumpkin pie embellishers.


All photos: Marlys


The cooks had been there since 4:00am and the clean-up crew would be there long into the afternoon.

It was the 33rd annual Community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Tucson Salvation Army. These people know how to throw a dinner party. They fed 1,600 people in 2016, and were expecting close to 2,000 this year.

I stood in the volunteer check-in line at 9:00am. The couple in front of me was told there had been a glitch in the computer system, and if they hadn’t receive confirmation when they registered online to volunteer, then they weren’t registered, and the volunteer positions were already filled. But if they came back at noon, maybe they could help with clean-up.

The couple was not happy. “You mean we drove all the way down here for nothing?”

The Volunteer Coordinator was apologetic, but the couple turned away irritated.

When it was my turn, I told the Volunteer Coordinator that I was probably one of the registered-but-not-registered volunteers because I also didn’t receive confirmation but I’m good at clean-up and my husband died of cancer and I’m visiting from Oregon and all alone and I used to put on events at the cancer center where I worked and I understand computer glitches in registration systems and I’m sorry she has to face perturbed people like the couple that just walked away.

And then I took a breath, fully expecting to be told to come back in three hours.

Volunteer Coordinator: “Would you like to help serve coffee to the people in line?”

Me: “Seriously?! You would let me do that?”

Volunteer Coordinator: “Yeah. Because you were nice.”

And so, among other things—and because quite a few folks had started to line up, even though it was two hours before the doors would open for dinner—I served coffee and bottled water to a line that eventually snaked across the large parking lot and around the corner and down along the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, tables had been decorated and set up in the main dining room …



… and on the back porch and in the entryway …



… and in a covered patio area where there were craft projects for the children as they waited for the holiday feast.



When guests got up to leave after eating their fill, the tables were cleaned and new folks took their places.

On the way out, everyone was encouraged to take a sack dinner for the road, and to do some early Christmas shopping for free in an improvised toy-and-book store that sported toys and games for children …



… and books for children and adults.



When I got home several hours later, I was exhausted. But it was a good kind of exhaustion.

This text from Daughter Summer earlier that morning:

I hope you have an unexpectedly fun day today.

Thanksgiving 2017 will go down as one of the most unexpectedly fun Thanksgivings ever.

Although I didn’t partake of the food, and although it was the first Thanksgiving I’d spent not with family, it was an unexpected day of feasting.

This first Thanksgiving in which I was not surrounded by family … I was surrounded by family.


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  1. Marcia Musial

    This was so very nice of you to do. You don’t have a problem with “different” and that’s good.

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