Ken Giffen has volunteered with The Salvation Army for 13 years at its free Christmas and Thanksgiving suppers. Giffen continued his 13-year volunteering streak on Monday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Volunteers help make The Salvation Army’s free Thanksgiving dinner a success

For 13 years Ken Giffen has volunteered to help the less fortunate and he continued that tradition this Thanksgiving.

Giffen and his friends Glenn Smith, Gloria Smith and Deb Smith have volunteered for the past 13 Christmas dinners and three Thanksgiving dinners at The Salvation Army in Red Deer.

The Salvation Army had a free Thanksgiving dinner on Monday for people who cannot afford to eat. The four were in the kitchen preparing the meal for the less fortunate.

“I like helping the community. It feels good seeing all the happy people and to hear them say thank you,” said Giffen. “It’s a nice feeling knowing I can help them out.”

Giffen said he doesn’t want to stop volunteering anytime soon.

“As long as my health is good, I’ll keep doing it,” Giffen said. “All of our kids are grown up, so this is the thing we do during Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Major Larry Bridger, pastor and director of The Salvation Army’s Red Deer Community Church and Family Services, said the meal wouldn’t be possible without volunteers like Giffen and the Smiths.

“Our volunteers are good every year,” said Bridger. “We’re so grateful for our volunteers and for everything they do.”

This was the eighth free Thanksgiving dinner Red Deer’s Salvation Army has held. It’s always exciting to help out the less fortunate, Bridger said.

“We feel blessed ourselves and just want to pass the blessing on to someone else.

“We provide a good meal in a safe environment,” said Bridger. “This is all a part of Thanksgiving and part of the celebration. Most of us have something to be thankful for, but there are others who have so little.”

Everyone was welcome to the Thanksgiving dinner, not just people who cannot afford a meal. There are people who are alone on Thanksgiving who come to The Salvation Army every year, Bridger said.

“It’s an opportunity for them to come to enjoy the meal and enjoy some fellowship as well,” he said.

Bridger said it’s nice to see people sit down and enjoy the meal after all the planning.

“It takes a little bit of planning, but it isn’t a horrendous amount of preparation. When you’ve organized it a few times, you get the hang of it,” said Bridger.

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(Left to right) Deb Smith, Gloria Smith, Ken Giffen and Glenn Smith work in the kitchen during The Salvation Army’s free Thanksgiving meal on Monday. The four have volunteered for 13 years. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

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