It wasn’t even noon yet on Christmas Day when someone rang the bell in the Salvation Army’s kitchen: The 200th meal had been served. And plate after plate still was being laden with turkey and all the fixings.
Before the day ended, the Salvation Army expected to serve at least 200 more in its dining hall on West Linwood Boulevard, as well as deliver about 900 more meals to the elderly and homebound.
It’s a tradition going back more than half a century that requires logistics befitting an army. Consider some of the numbers: 130 turkeys, 22 gallons of gravy, 1,400 dinner rolls and 300-plus volunteers.
The doors opened at 11 a.m. Ten minutes later, the dining hall was packed.
“It’s just like a restaurant,” said Salvation Army Major Greg Voeller. “They get greeted, seated and served.”
Tara Taylor of Kansas City and her 18-month-old son, Amir, were looking forward to a hearty meal; 2011 has been rough for them.
“This is our first time here,” Taylor said. “We didn’t have enough for Christmas dinner this year.”
After dinner, Taylor planned to be with family. Amir would play with his new toys.
“He only has a couple, but he loves them,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, volunteers picked up dinners to deliver. Others in red aprons swarmed the hall. Some made it a family affair.
Crystal and Ennis Williams drove in from Trimble, Mo., with their daughters Hanna, 12, Becca, 14, and Gabrielle, 15, to serve food and clean tables.
“We just wanted to give back to the community,” Crystal said.
Cathy and Craig Vollmer of Lee’s Summit have been volunteering as a family ever since their daughters, Brandi, 17, and Kirsten, 20, were too small to reach the tables. Kirsten’s most vivid memory was seeing her father one frigid Christmas give his new gloves to a man who had come to dinner so cold his fingers were blue.
“It makes me realize how much I’ve been blessed,” she said. “It’s no question. We come every year.”