For 24 years JB Goodwin REALTORS has been a big part of the volunteer crew serving Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army. I was so happy to have been involved again this year after having missed last year.
The Salvation Army’s Downtown Austin shelter feeds and houses hundreds of folks in need every day, including women and young children. Additionally, at Thanksgiving they offer a sit-down holiday meal to their residents and to the homeless community at large, serving up some delicious homestyle cooking and turning no one away.
For Thanksgiving, guests are greeted at the door to the dining room and escorted to an open spot at any of the round tables. There is a place for them to put down their bedrolls and backpacks if the wish to, and then they are served by a host of volunteers rather than queuing a the counter to grab a tray for themselves as would be the case on other days of the year. The S.A. staff and volunteers try to make the experience as warm and “normal” (if you will) as possible, shaking hands, chatting with the guests, and refilling glasses. The tables are dressed up with fall centerpieces and place mats hand drawn by some of the children. That’s not a huge thing, but it’s a lovely little touch. I overheard one woman asking if she could take her place mat with her so she could show it to her son.
Meeting and serving the guests was a real honor for me, and I don’t mean to come across as overly pious by saying that. It’s just that I imagine that for people who are experiencing homelessness, their day to day life is probably not overfilled with opportunities to sit down, relax, and enjoy a little conversation while being properly waited on. In addition to the obvious benefit of a nice hot meal, I have to believe that even a short respite from the indignities of being a street person — either ignored or looked upon with suspicion or disdain — and instead being shown respect and treated with decency and caring has got to be affecting for them. And I’m truly honored to be a part of that.
As I’ve mentioned previously, if you’re looking for a place where your charitable donations will have the greatest impact — during the holiday season or at any other time of year — I’d like to make a plea for the Salvation Army. You can donate your time, money or supply stuff from their list of items they are in need of. Approximately 83% of the money they take in goes directly to benefit the individuals and families they serve in Travis and Williamson counties, plus 100% of every dollar donated for disaster relief goes to help survivors and first responders.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!