The football game was on.
The appetizers were served.
It was Thanksgiving, both inside and out.
On Thursday, the Salvation Army hosted its annual Thanksgiving dinner inside its headquarters on Sutherland Avenue in Janesville. Outside, volunteers were taking to-go orders to people who were homebound or otherwise couldn’t make it to headquarters for dinner.
And everyone was thankful.
Maj. Tom McDowell, commanding officer of the Janesville Salvation Army corps, was thankful for all the volunteers who showed up and made the annual meal “run like clockwork.” Typically, the Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner serves between 300 and 400 people each year. Last year was McDowell’s first Thanksgiving in Janesville. He said he woke up that morning a little bit nervous about the outcome. This year, he knew the volunteers would come, as they always do, and make the dinner run smoothly.
Lexi Monroe was grateful for her two boys, Sam, 10 and Max, 12. This was the first year they volunteered, but it was something they always wanted to do.
“We wanted to be a part of something bigger than us,” Monroe said.
Tina Reinke was volunteering for the ninth year in a row. She was thankful for the opportunity to help out.
“People are always so happy when they come here,” she said.
That’s what struck Tabitha Rein, as well. It was her first year volunteering. She had always wanted to spend Thanksgiving helping out. Now, with her children grown, she could fulfill that wish.
Miranda Olson was grateful for the courage to volunteer at the event.
She and her son, Gavin, 11, were volunteering in the dining room. She lost her 19-year-old son in April. This is her first Thanksgiving without him.
For volunteer Anda O’Connell, the improvement in her health has been the biggest blessing.
“I have something sort of different to be thankful for,” O’Connell said. “I’m glad to be able to read again.”
O’Connell had a stroke about two years ago, and that left her with some processing problems that are slowly resolving themselves. It took her about a year and a half to learn how to drive again.
Janelle Chipman of Milwaukee was in Janesville visiting family and friends who are like family.
“I’m thankful for my ‘framily,’” Chipman said. “You know—that’s the combination of family and friends. I’ve been blessed with a lot of them.”