'They saved Thanksgiving' — Moose, others donate to keep local Salvation Army dinner tradition alive
Every year, hundreds of people come to Connellsville's Salvation Army Service Center to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. However, this year the dinner almost didn't happen.
According to Patty Hanford, who works in the Connellsville center, a local company, which usually donates the turkeys and other food served at the dinner, came under new ownership and decided not to make the normal donation. The Salvation Army was left with little alternative but to consider canceling the annual meal for the first time ever.
However, Hanford said several groups in the area stepped forward and saved the day.
"They saved Thanksgiving," said Hanford about the joint efforts of the Connellsville Moose, South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club and Connellsville Shop 'n Save. "They immediately said they would help."
Connellsville Moose member John Truxel said it seemed only appropriate that the Moose help the Salvation Army considering the organization's history with the annual event.
According to him, the Moose began the tradition approximately 18 years ago when the organization purchased, cooked and served turkey at the Polish Club for two to three years. Eventually, the event was moved to the Salvation Army's facility and Moose members would contribute by delivering meals to those that couldn't make it in for the dinner.
He learned of the Salvation Army's dilemma from fellow Moose and member of the South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club Thomas Schomer. Schomer heard about it while delivering hams to the center for Christmas. The ham delivery is the club's tradition every year.
Truxel guaranteed the Salvation Army that the Moose would supply all of the turkeys needed and said he felt sure that the membership would back him in this. He was pleased when the membership decided not only to provide the turkeys but generously offered a $500 donation.
In addition, Shop 'n Save donated 35 pumpkin pies and the Rod and Gun Club provided the rolls for the dinner.
"This was a joint effort. The Moose was glad to help make this happen," said Truxel.
A Salvation Army employee said he doesn't know what they would have done if the Moose and others hadn't helped.
"We were desperate," said Jim Smith, the Salvation Army's cook. "If the Moose wouldn't have come through, we would've been in real trouble."
Chris Crow, Salvation Army field representative for 28 counties and 115 service units, said if Thanksgiving dinner was canceled, it would've not only been a first for Connellsville, but first for any unit in his experience.
"It was very fortunate that somebody came through to support and to help the community, who wouldn't have had dinner without it," said Crow.
According to Crow, the Connellsville unit served more than 350 people last year and expected to serve even more this year.
The dinner, which was held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, featured green beans, cole slaw, cranberry sauce, turkey and stuffing, whipped potatoes and gravy, rolls and pumpkin pie for dessert.
In addition to the dinner, children had the opportunity to visit with Santa Claus.