Turkey served at the Juneau Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner at the Hangar on the Wharf on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Salvation Army)

Turkey served at the Juneau Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner at the Hangar on the Wharf on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Salvation Army)

Three generations of Juneauites volunteer for Thanksgiving Dinner

‘We just wanted to do that to share our friendship with the less fortunate’

When he started volunteering with the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Dinner in Juneau in 1986, Jerry Harmon helped serve needy people in the basement of the group’s church on Willoughby Avenue.

Thirty-three years later, Harmon, his wife, children and six grandchildren all volunteer at the event which has grown so large it needed to move out of the church basement and into the Hangar on the Wharf.

In his first year at the Thanksgiving Dinner, “we had maybe 10 (volunteers),” Harmon said. “Now there’s 50, 60 easy.”

“In those days turkeys were brought in from different families in town, put it all together for the less fortunate,” Harmon said. “There are a number of people who come and mingle with the less fortunate, just to pump them up and let them know they’re human beings just like the rest of us.”

[Local organizations put the giving in Thanksgiving.]

Harmon, now 79, and a foreman at the Kensington Gold Mine, came to Juneau from Anchorage in 1985 to work at the Alaska Juneau Mine. He and his wife Beverly had four children who all started helping with the dinner as well.

“It was pretty much from day one, every since they were old enough. They were all there yesterday,” Harmon said Friday. His children, Genevieve, Jameson “J.J.”, Ursala and Veronica started by serving pies and refilling water glasses, and now Harmon’s six grandchildren help out as well.

“It’s really amazing. I looked at them yesterday, all six of them sitting at one table folding napkins,” Harmon said. “When I saw my grandkids sitting at one table, putting the red band around the napkins, you feel good forever.”

Jerry Harmon, right, and his family enjoying some watermelon. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Salvation Army)

Jerry Harmon, right, and his family enjoying some watermelon. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Salvation Army)

There were other things families can do together, Harmon said, but this was an event was of special importance.

“Makes you feel really good to see your family working,” Harmon said. “We’ve always believed the grandparents were part of the family, that’s why we live close, it’s just a good feeling.”

Harmon’s grandchildren, Alessandra, Sawyer, Caleb, Vespina, Marzena and Arremina range in ages from 7-17. His two son-in-laws, Ryan Friend and Jeremy Witmore, help out as well.

This year the Salvation Army served 588 meals, according to Gina Halverson, Juneau Salvation Army officer. Halverson said that in addition to the people who show up for the event itself, the local Salvation Army partners with other agencies in town to provide meals for people who can’t leave the home.

Meals are also provided to the Juneau Police Department so officers who have to work on the holiday can have a Thanksgiving meal as well.

“We couldn’t do the event without the volunteers and the people who find the time to take time during the holidays,” Halverson said. “People need community and there’s so many out there that feel really lonely during the holidays, so we try to say ‘hey, we’re here to help.’”

Rob Sanford, owner of Hangar on the Wharf, allows the Salvation Army to use the space and the kitchen. Sanford and some of the staff from the restaurant volunteer as well. Dick and Carol Hand, owners of Alaska Seafood Company, smoke the dozens of turkeys cooked each year for the event.

Harmon said he and his family will also spend a day together, “ringing the bell,” for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign which takes place during the holiday season. Harmon also volunteers for Juneau Gold Rush Days. His wife Beverly, a retired school teacher, owns and operates the AJ Mine Gastineau Mill Tour.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A resident and his dog walk past the taped off portion of the Basin Road Trestle after it suffered damaged from a rockslide earlier this week. The trestle is open to pedestrians, but will remain closed to vehicular traffic until structural repairs are made, according to city officials. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Rocky road: Basin Road Trestle open to pedestrians, remains closed to vehicles

City officials say repairs are currently being assessed after damaging rockfall

Library Director Dave Berry and Advisory Board Chair Kate Finn participate in Library Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday Jan. 17, 2023, at Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)
Homer Library Advisory Board upholds decision to retain LGBTQ+ books

A citizen’s group last year submitted a petition asking that the books be removed from the children’s section

Courtesy Photo / Juneau Police Department 
This photo shows Woodrow Farrell Eagleman who police say after going missing on Jan. 11 was seen leaving town on Jan. 12 via airport surveillance.
Police: Man reported missing took plane out of town

A Juneau man recently reported as missing was found leaving town on… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Jan. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read