Renton Salvation Army feeds hundreds for Thanksgiving

Renton resident Jeanette Shirk, left,  is assisted by Salvation Army volunteer Clara Monacelli during the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving distribution on Monday at the Salvation Army Renton Rotary Food Bank. - Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter
Renton resident Jeanette Shirk, left, is assisted by Salvation Army volunteer Clara Monacelli during the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving distribution on Monday at the Salvation Army Renton Rotary Food Bank.
— image credit: Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter

There was not a chance Jeanette Shirk could afford to buy a turkey on her own this Thanksgiving to feed herself, her husband and her 16-year-old.

She had been unemployed for 2 1/2 months and just recently found a job working just four hours a week in the office of a machine shop.

On top of that, her husband has been suffering from an illness that’s had him in an intensive-care unit because of his poor health.

So, for the first time in her life Skirk reached out to the Renton Salvation Army to supply her holiday meal.

She was in line with dozens of other people Monday morning waiting for her turn in the Renton Corps Thanksgiving distribution of meal baskets.

“This is absolutely amazing that the Salvation Army is doing this,” Shirk said. “There’s going to be thousands of turkeys given away that people would not ordinarily get.”

The Renton resident was third on the list to sign up.

Even though she just started working, her circumstances are such that she can’t afford extras, such as a proper meal for her family.

“Everyone should be here smiling and just so happy to be waiting in this line,” Shirk said. “God is good.”

The Renton Salvation Army planned to distribute Thanksgiving food baskets to all 475 families who signed up for the assistance. Those were families consisting of anywhere from two to 10 members.

Six staff members on site and 15 to 20 volunteers were expected to help pass out the food from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.

The baskets were complete with a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fresh produce, bread and dessert.

Despite being a little short in their donations this year, Salvation Army staff has been praying that they were going to come through and be all right, said Beverly Storey, director of social services for the Renton Corps.

“The city of Renton loves to take care of their own and that’s wonderful,” Storey said. “We have been blessed with several churches and grocery stores in the area that are helping us.”

The Salvation Army did not turn away anyone who signed up for Thanksgiving assistance even with the increased need.

“Well at this site last year 363 families were served, this year we’re up to 475,” Storey said. “So, obviously the economy has made a huge impact on the families in this area and those that are asking for help this year compared to last year.”

Storey is confident and hopeful the food donations will continue because she notes that they still have the regular food bank operations to contend with next week and the rest of the holiday season.

She is seeing a lot of families use the food bank that have never used it before.

“We’re seeing a lot of families that used to donate, but because of job loss, because of the economy, they’re now needing help,” Storey said.

With God’s help they will get through their Christmas charity efforts, she said.

“Because he knows that we’re not in it for ourselves, we’re in it to help others and I have no doubt that he’ll help us get through this,” Storey said.

Salvation Army volunteer Belinda Crum manned the corn, green beans and stuffing distribution in the busy food pantry Monday morning. Other volunteers directed clients to the different stations to pick out food for their baskets. This is Crum’s third year helping out with the Thanksgiving distribution.

“There’s a lot of need out there and there’s a lot of appreciative people,” she said. “We have a lot more people than we did three years ago coming through the door.”

Crum volunteers year after year because she loves to help people.

“I love to see the gratitude and love them, hug them – let them know they’re cared for,” she said.

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