While most people are worrying about pulling off the perfect Thanksgiving feast, some exceptionally giving people are focusing on feeding other families first - families who have nowhere to go.
In Altoona, those families can partake of a Thanksgiving feast at the Salvation Army or the Food for Families Soup Kitchen.
The Salvation Army, 1813 Sixth Ave., will host its feast from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, while Food for Families will host its Thanksgiving meal from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the soup kitchen, 2201 Union Ave., Altoona.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Women’s Club of Altoona member Maureen Kirsch of Altoona spreads a pan of fudge at the club’s building along Crescent Avenue Saturday morning. The group made more than 200 pounds, which will be distributed with Thanksgiving dinners at the Food for Families Soup Kitchen.
"We want to make sure they have a Thanksgiving dinner," Patricia Edwards of Altoona said of those who have nowhere else to go. Edwards has been cooking the meal at the Salvation Army for 12 years and said everyone is welcome.
More than 300 people were fed last year, and that number is expected to increase this year, if you take into account the increase in families needing food from the food bank and eating regularly at the Salvation Army soup kitchen on Sundays.
"Anyone is more than welcome to come," Salvation Army Capt. Darlene Means said, noting that they get needy families as well as older people who don't have family nearby.
About 60 volunteers help with the feast, and all of the food is donated.
At the Food for Families soup kitchen, Thanksgiving is one of the lesser attended meals, said Sister Paula DelGrosso, who started the soup kitchen in 1990.
"That's the one time of the year that somebody invites them in," DelGrosso said.
Even with a decrease in attendance, the soup kitchen feeds about 150 people that day.
"Even if you get 50 people, that's 50 people who didn't have anywhere to be," DelGrosso said.
The Thanksgiving feast is unique in that food is donated, prepared and served entirely by Women's Club of Altoona members. For the past 16 years, 25-plus volunteers start the weekend before Thanksgiving making homemade fudge, cookies and pies to serve.
It's all personal for Mary Jane Hammers, who started the project for the club.
"I come from a very strong family. I always had someone to have Thanksgiving dinner with. Here's people who wouldn't have Thanksgiving dinner if we wouldn't do it. I try to think of it as an extension of my own family," Hammers said.
The day before Thanksgiving is spent peeling 100 pounds of potatoes. All the cooking is done on Thanksgiving Day: a dozen 25-pound turkeys, homemade stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry relish, jello salad and candied sweet potatoes.
Goodie bags with fudge and other treats are given to everyone who attends, and all the children receive small bags of books and toys. After all the work, most of the volunteers return home to cook dinner for their own families.
"It's hard work, but it's rewarding. You see 120-some people who had nowhere to go on Thanksgiving Day," Hammers said. "It's hard to watch the kids come in there."