Meagan Bryd, an AmeriCorps volunteer, carries a box load of meals toward a vehicle for delivery on Thanksgiving. (Ben Hohenstatt Juneau Empire)

Meagan Bryd, an AmeriCorps volunteer, carries a box load of meals toward a vehicle for delivery on Thanksgiving. (Ben Hohenstatt Juneau Empire)

Wheelin’ and mealin’: Army of volunteers distributes food to hundreds

Gobbling up food.

The day was cold and dreary, but the meals were hot and ready to go to whoever might want one.

The Salvation Army and a cadre of volunteers served up well over Thanksgiving meals on Thursday

“It’s actually been going really well, said Gina Halverson, a Salvation Army officer.

She said shortly before 1 p.m. that more than 400 of about 600 meals had been distributed.

That effort had help from the Salvation Army congregation, AmeriCorps, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, community volunteers, the Glory Hall, Smokehouse Catering, longtime turkey-smoker Dick Hand and others, Halverson said.

Bridget Vivoda, a volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, carries bags of Thanksgiving meals to a vehicle on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Bridget Vivoda, a volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, carries bags of Thanksgiving meals to a vehicle on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Benami Bean has plenty of bags at the ready while preparing meals for distribution on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Benami Bean has plenty of bags at the ready while preparing meals for distribution on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Mark Sabbatini prepares meal bags for distribution on Thursday. Bags were prepped and loaded into insulated containers before making their way to the Salvation Army’s cantina, which was parked in front of the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center . (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Mark Sabbatini prepares meal bags for distribution on Thursday. Bags were prepped and loaded into insulated containers before making their way to the Salvation Army’s cantina, which was parked in front of the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center . (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“It was a huge collaboration,” said Shane Halverson, also a Salvation Army officer.

Organizers said the annual meal distribution is a Juneau tradition that’s happened for over 30 years, although an exact number is murky.

[Juneau reaches out a helping hand for Thanksgiving]

For the past two of those 30-odd years, meal distribution has primarily been done through a walk-up or drive-up model with volunteers also delivering batches of meals to groups. The change was made because of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to avoid large groups in tight quarters.

Abbey Greer and Kelsey Rich show drivers the way in to the Salvation Army’s meal distribution site on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Abbey Greer and Kelsey Rich show drivers the way in to the Salvation Army’s meal distribution site on Thursday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Shane Halverson said the practice from last year meant that the drive-up/walk-up model was relatively smooth. Additionally, since this year’s event was held in front of the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center, Gina Halverson said people were already used to driving through to make donations. Last year, the Salvation Army cantina parked in front of the Downtown Transit Center.

Despite the developed routine, the Halversons said they hope that 2021’s event is the last one to primarily take place outdoors —

“We hope to go inside next year,” Shane Halverson said. “It kind of loses that family touch.”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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