RICHLAND — About four dozen community members were thankful to the Salvation Army and more than 80 volunteers who spent their Thanksgiving Day giving back to others.
The Salvation Army and its volunteers prepared dinner -- 21 turkeys and all the trimmings -- to serve 125-150 people in Richland.
Numbers were down this year -- only 45 people arrived at the Thayer Drive building for the Thanksgiving Day meal -- but those who did were grateful the Salvation Army was able to provide a place for them to go.
"It was a whole community effort. It feels good," said Maj. Julio Vasquez, Salvation Army Corps office. "Next year will be better because people will know it's here."
The Salvation Army has provided dinner in past years in Pasco, but wasn't able to have a dinner last year and had to move it to Richland this year.
But even though not as many people came out, Vasquez said it was great to help those who did, and the guests were appreciative too.
"One gentleman said he was glad we had this dinner because otherwise he was going to spend Thanksgiving by himself," Vasquez said.
Even though the man didn't know anybody, he said it was better to be there than all alone, Vasquez said.
Families were able to gather around large round tables with friends and share a warm meal together.
And volunteers were able to warm their hearts knowing they were helping give others a Thanksgiving to remember.
"It's all about serving others in our community," said Jennifer Plemmons of Kennewick. "I just believe in serving others."
Plemmons was one of 25 Team Battelle volunteers who spent their day at the Salvation Army. Teens from the Hanford High School Key Club also were among the 80 volunteers who helped out.
Some volunteers started as early as 8 a.m. to get the food prepped. The turkeys -- about 200 pounds worth -- were cooked by staff at Granny's Buffet in Kennewick, Vasquez said.
Volunteers also set tables for the guests, served meals and drinks, then cleaned up everything at the end of the day.
Plemmons said the people who showed up for dinner were very appreciative and even stayed after they finished eating to just talk with friends and volunteers.
"It appeared to be like a family gathering should be," she said.
Plemmons also said it was great to see the teens take time away from their families and volunteer on Thanksgiving.
"It's important our kids understand that it's not about us, it's about service to other people," she said. "This is a great time in their lives to help others."
Though they didn't serve as many people as they expected, Vasquez said none of the food went to waste. Those who came for dinner also were able to take home leftovers, giving them additional meals to eat.
Some volunteers also took food to give to others in need in the community.
"It makes you feel good that we're able to share with people in the community who have less than what we do," he said.
After everyone was done eating, Vasquez said he then invited the volunteers to sit down for a joint Thanksgiving Day meal.
It was a nice way to say "thank you" to the volunteers, he said.
"Next year's going to be better. That's my prayer," Vasquez said. "The community will know this is the place."
Now that Thanksgiving is over, Vasquez said the Salvation Army will begin preparing for Christmas. They have 514 families that they will be providing food for a Christmas dinner, toys, clothing and other gifts.
"There's about 2,100 kids we're going to be helping this Christmas," he said.
The children's names will be on the Salvation Army's Angel Tree, which is near the food court at the Columbia Center mall in Kennewick.
Beginning today, shoppers can pick tags from the tree and buy gifts the children have wished for. The Angel Tree will accept gifts through Dec. 23.
Vasquez said the Salvation Army needs volunteers to help make Christmas special for people in the Tri-Cities. Volunteers can staff the table at the Angel Tree, ring bells with the Red Kettles and donate food that will be given to the families.
To volunteer or for more information on how to help, call 943-7977.