Line forms early at Salvation Army’s Linwood site for Thanksgiving dinner

The Salvation Army dinner on Thursday was the type of community service event where Arletha Frye would enjoy working as a volunteer.

But this year the midtown resident and mother wasn’t a volunteer — she was among those being served a Thanksgiving meal in the Linwood Center, 101 W. Linwood Blvd.

Frye said a series of personal setbacks has forced her to seek help from agencies like the Salvation Army. And dinner on Thursday fit an immediate need.

“It was something I didn’t expect, but if I need the help I don’t have a problem asking,” said Frye, who ate dinner with her 7-year-old son.

On Thursday, the agency continued its long-standing holiday tradition by serving nearly 1,250 meals to homebound residents and hundreds more meals to those who came to the center.

“We want them to know that we are all a part of this one great big family called the family of God,” said Maj. Andy Miller, the Salvation Army’s divisional secretary for programming. “We just say, if you want comfort and a Thanksgiving meal, you are welcome here.”

Many of those who ate dinner at the center waited outside for at least two hours before the doors opened. Miller said the warm temperatures might have helped attract more families and others to the dinner.

Once inside, diners sat at tables while volunteers brought them steaming plates heaped with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and rolls.

It was the fifth year Kenisha Wallace of Olathe has volunteered at the center but it is the first time she brought along her 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.

“This is just to let her know she is blessed and there are people out there who are not as fortunate as she is,” Wallace said.

The dining room resembled a restaurant at the height of a dinner rush. Volunteers made their way between tables, carrying dinner trays, pitchers of fruit punch and pots of hot coffee.

Arielle Nash, 13, was among those who served fruit punch and a smile. Nash said she and her family have volunteered at the Salvation Army each Thanksgiving since she was about 5.

“When you make a donation, you really don’t get to see who you are helping, but working here you see the people who you are helping,” Nash said. “I love it and I ask to come every year.”

This year volunteers prepared more than 125 turkeys and 28 commercial-size trays of mashed potatoes, green beans and dressing. Add to that 24 gallons of gravy, 1,350 dinner rolls, 1,350 slices of pumpkin pie and 40 pounds of butter. More than 300 volunteers helped prepare, serve and deliver the meals as well as set up and clean up.

Freda Hatley, head cook at the center, had the huge task of coordinating the food preparation.

Hatley said although her day started about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, it was all a labor of love.

“It makes you feel good to see all of these people can come in and eat,” said Hatley, who had planned to have dinner with relatives.

Melissa Sims of midtown said she enjoyed the hospitality and the quality of the food served.

“They are nice and thankfully they try to treat you as best they can,” Sims said. “We have got to be thankful because a lot of agencies aren’t able to do this anymore right now.”