The kitchen staff at Kerrville’s Salvation Army Kroc Center is on high alert, getting ready to feed up to 1,300 people a full Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
Chef Ed Lawrence is in charge this year, and has been planning food for about 1,300 people, based on their files saying how many diners were fed in 2019 and ‘20, and the increases that happened each year.
As of the end of last week, Lawrence and his staff had 49 turkeys, most of them baked already and waiting for volunteers to come to begin slicing all that meat; plus six cases of turkey breast meat to add to that.
He said last year they had volunteers deliver more than 325 meals around the community; served more than 125 meals at the roadside rest stop areas on Interstate 10 near Kerrville; and had hundreds of people come to the Kroc Center to either “dine in” or pick up “to go” orders they reserved ahead of time.
Based on those numbers, he’s planning this year for about 1,300 diners.
The menu again will be turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a variety of (donated) desserts from cheesecake to whatever flavor all those stacks of pies are.
Lawrence stressed that everyone in the community is invited to come to, or get, a free dinner from the Salvation Army. It’s open to all.
The schedule is, that anyone can call by midday today, Wednesday, for home delivery by calling (830) 315-5771.
On Thursday when the doors at the Kroc Center open at 11 a.m., he said guests can just show up to eat, or to ask for to-go plates.
“For some people, this is their first Thanksgiving alone, because a spouse died or some other loss in their family. We’re trying to put joy back into someone’s life,” he said. “It’s honestly a good way for the community to engage and come together.”
He has a handful of paid staff members and they guide the community volunteers.
“We do all this with the help and generosity of the community,” he said. “And it’s gotten bigger every year. We’ve had about a 200-person increase each year the last two years.”
Last year, it took between 40 and 50 volunteers to deliver all the meals to people’s homes. As of last week, they were still seeking a few people to work at the highway rest stop areas starting early Thanksgiving morning, plus a few more servers to work in the Kroc Center dining room.
“Last year, we had about 220 volunteers who helped; and volunteers will help serve on Thursday this year,” he said.
The day of this visit to Lawrence’s kitchen at the Kroc Center, he also was directing the volunteers who came to help from the Kerrville Public Utility Board offices, including Linda Ortega, Lydia Goldthorn, Tammye Riley and Howard Hall.
They’ve had volunteers from other sources in previous years, too.
He said many of those volunteers worked last year, too; and in years before.
This year they also will be sending meals to veterans at Kerrville’s VA Medical Center, and some extra for the VA staff members working that day.
On the holiday, the Kroc Center will be closed for all usual activities except the Thanksgiving dinner.
Lawrence has been securing food donations; getting acquainted with regular volunteers; and collaborating with his assistant, Dave Anderson; after starting the planning back in late October.
Once in the Kroc kitchen, Johns said each turkey loses some fat and weight when cooked, so they try to gauge their supply carefully.
Between Monday and Wednesday, some very welcome volunteers were expected to slice the turkeys; cut donated and extra bought pies into single-serving slices and put those into clear plastic containers; and fill cups with cranberry sauce.
Lawrence said last-minute volunteers also are appreciated, as they can help serve the food, or greet visitors and show them to the dining room.
The same daily kitchen staff also cooks for the approximately 75 children in the Boys & Girls Club afterschool activities, but this year the Kerrville ISD school calendar is a little different for this holiday, and Lawrence and his staff had to plan ahead for that, too.
The holidays are an important time of year. For some, unfortunately, this time is difficult, as they are unable to see loved ones, can remember loved ones that have passed on, or are unable to afford a meal.
Because of the generosity of many local businesses and individuals in the Kerrville area community, the Salvation Army of Kerrville is able to help.
The Salvation Army invites all in the area to its annual Community Thanksgiving dinner. Served at the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on Nov. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the free, traditional Thanksgiving meal is available to any who enter its doors, to eat in or take out.
For those individuals and families who are home-bound, meal deliveries are available.
Should you have a neighbor or family member who needs a meal delivered, but is without a telephone, please call on their behalf by mid-day on Wednesday.
Anyone with questions regarding the Salvation Army Community Thanksgiving dinner event can contact 315-5771, or visit the Salvation Army Kroc Center; or contact Operations Director Mollie Putnam or the administration offices at the Kroc Center.