Maj. Larry Bridger has been serving up turkey and gravy every Thanksgiving and Christmas with the help of The Salvation Army volunteers in Red Deer.
And this year’s Thanksgiving will be his last.
The pastor and director of The Salvation Army’s Red Deer Community Church and Family Services said he is in his final year before retiring next summer.
He will miss serving the traditional meals to those in need in Red Deer, but he looks forward to having the traditional meals with his family.
“We don’t get to have our family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, because we’re here all day,” he said Monday, as the organization served its traditional autumn meal.
More than 30 people were waiting in a line outside for the doors to open at noon Monday.
Bridger said he expected about 220 people to enjoy the meal, an increase of about 20 compared to most years.
Usually, those who enjoy the meals are people who are homeless, less fortunate, or seniors who live alone.
“It’s a way to enjoy a meal and good fellowship,” said Bridger.
About 20 volunteers helped to prepare and serve the feast. Among the volunteers was 10-year-old Malyk Kovach.
The boy was giving out pop tickets, alongside his mom Shasta, as guests arrived.
The mother explained the two come to the family festivities at The Salvation Army and enjoy the community. It’s also helped Malyk meet new people and make friends.
“Those family nights help us feel connected and they’ve helped us, so we wanted to do the same,” she said.
The mother “volun-told” her son to help out.
“But now that he’s here, he’s having fun,” she said with a chuckle.
Bridger has been an officer for The Salvation Army for about 42 years, serving in communities such as Medicine Hat, Grand Prairie, Kamloops, Vancouver, Sudbury and London, Ont., among others.