Jack-o’-lanterns and scarecrows are still on display but other holidays are already on the minds of those at the Salvation Army.
October is less about Halloween and more about preparing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas for Salvation Army staff members.
The red kettles are being dusted off and the paper angels for the Angel Tree program are being created while plans for a community Thanksgiving meal are coming together.
Salvation Army Major Dolores Watts, who along with husband Major Guy Watts, is looking forward to their first Thanksgiving and Christmas in Odessa while leading preparations for both holidays at the charity.
And they need help — both funding and volunteers to make both holidays a time for celebration for the needy of Odessa.
The first event is the Thanksgiving meal, which is made by volunteers and Salvation Army staff for a lunch at the Salvation Army headquarters on Thanksgiving Day, which is Nov. 24.
The meal includes all the turkey day staples and is free and open to anyone who wants or needs a meal. Last year’s event had plenty of volunteers, from Salvation Army advisory board members to dozens of players and students from both UTPB and Odessa College. Hundreds attended that meal.
Watts said she hopes many of those same volunteers will show up again for the meal, which is a labor of love that needs as many volunteers as it can get.
Watts said there are many
reasons that it’s important to provide a community Thanksgiving feast including a large homeless population in Odessa.
“Also, there are people that live many miles away from their family members. Therefore, they are not able to share a meal with their family members. They would possibly have to have their Thanksgiving meal all alone. There is nothing worse than eating a holiday meal all by yourself. It can be very depressing to be alone on any holiday.”
Watts said many low-income families struggle with finances and are not able to make ends meet and that a holiday meal could be out of reach for them.
She stressed that volunteers are needed and that everyone is invited – the homeless, students unable to go home for the holidays, low-income families, and seniors who may be alone for the holiday and not have family nearby.
She said volunteers will help with setup, take down, serve meals, clean tables, refill drinks and empty trash. The other service volunteers provide is fellowship with attendees, which many who volunteered last year said was an enjoyable experience.
Funds are needed for the meal and Watts said they also welcome food donations and are asking for traditional thanksgiving foods such as: turkeys, stuffing, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, buns and pies.
Watts said the Salvation Army is also working on getting enough volunteers signed up to ring bells during the annual kettle event.
“The money that The Salvation Army collects during Christmas, helps those in need right here in Odessa,” she said.
The funds raised through the Kettles helps to buy toys for children at Christmas time.
“Your money also helps us purchase food for those in need this holiday season as well as year round in our food pantry,” Watts added.
She said the funds go to families in the form of food and other needs and that all those who receive help have filled out paperwork to prove that they are in need.
“By giving, you are helping your neighbors who are in need. This money stays in our community.”
Some funds allow the Salvation Army to help pay the utility bills for those who find themselves in distress, year round. The Salvation Army, through its social services office assists thousands throughout the year through food assistance, utility assistance, hot meals, shelter, character building programs, disaster services and other programs.
“Need knows no season, people have needs all year round, and The Salvation Army is there to meet those needs; but we can only meet the needs of others because of the generosity of the giving public,” Watts said.
For more information on the meal and how to volunteer, call (432)332-0738.