Salvation Army’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner includes volunteers as young as three years-old

Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2022 at 9:32 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield’s Salvation Army hosted its annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday. For the second year in a row, power outages in the central part of town left volunteers briefly setting up the event by candlelight, but that didn’t dampen the holiday spirit.

The lunch runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but it takes many hours of dedicated work to prepare a feast that will feed 350 people. And the Salvation Army’s large army of volunteers who give of their time to help others included several in their formative years, like three-year-old Everly Williams, who was doing everything from helping cover the bread rolls with aluminum foil to helping her mom take plates of food out to the tables.

Decked out in pink glasses and a large ribbon in her hair, she was quite the popular volunteer drawing lots of smiles.

“I wanted to instill in her the sense of helping other people and really to grasp what Thanksgiving is all about,” said her mom Alexis Fuwell in explaining why she wanted to start Everly volunteering at such a young age.

While Everly was the youngest volunteer, nine members of her family were also in the volunteer group, including her 84-year-old great-great-grandmother Juanita Epperson, who was delighted to have Everly helping out.

“I’ve always loved to see children learn to serve,” Epperson said. “And now she’s growing up to be a servant. The Lord says that those who serve are the greatest among us.”

And those they were serving certainly appreciated their efforts.

James Evers, who’s homeless, is a frequent visitor to the Salvation Army and is trying to give back by ringing the bell at their Red Kettle locations.

He’s used to living on the streets and getting meals at the Salvation Army.

“Lately, it’s getting rough because it’s getting cold outside,” Evers said. “But the Salvation Army has helped me so much over the years. They’ve been amazing.”

James made some new friends at the dinner as he took out a guitar he had with him and played for Rebekah Gorden and her seven children, who were volunteering by handing out cookies as a take-home treat. For Rebekah, bringing in children to the Thanksgiving event was a type of catharsis.

“Last year, we were on the other side of this,” she said of the dinner. “It’s been a really hard year. My husband died in March, and we’re just glad to be able to give back. People served us here last year, and this year we get to serve. It meant everything to us to have someone to count on to put food in front of my kids. It was awesome.”

Brandon Rogers and his ten-year-old son Shane spent the day volunteering in the server line with Shane dolling out the rolls. It may have been a thankless, mundane task to do over and over again hundreds of times, but to Shane, it didn’t matter.

“It was fun,” Shane said. “And I get to help people out.”

And that’s what it’s all about.

Like Shane, volunteers discover that helping others is food for everyone’s soul.

What a great lesson to learn when you’re young.

“Giving is better than receiving,” said Rogers.

“Most people here are probably going through really hard times,” said Gorden. “So to see a smile, especially from a child, it gives you hope that the future is going to be brighter and better.”

“It just makes you take a step back from your daily life and be more grateful for the little things you have,” Fuwell said.

“There’s no doubt in our minds that there’s hope,” Epperson added. “And if each one of us will just do our part to serve and get rid of the strife, what an amazing world we would have.”

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