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Auburn’s Salvation Army serves hundreds on Thanksgiving Day

November 27, 2016 GMT

AUBURN — Not everyone may be blood-related, but it’s a family affair at the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Day meal.

Jeanne Hampson, of Auburn, sat at the dinner table inside 18 Genesee St. next to K.J. Deal. Relatives were too far away to celebrate the holiday with, so the two decided to celebrate together. Hampson, whose daughter lives in Florida, said she often thinks of Deal as a second daughter.

“I have someone to pick on right here,” she said, laughing.

Deal grinned.

“I pick back,” she said.

The two met at the Auburn YMCA where they both were taking a class. Since then, they have become friends and often do things together including playing bingo at the Salvation Army. Thursday, they came for turkey, stuffing, pie, and good company.

“It’s been great,” Hampson said. “It’s been really nice. I came because I didn’t have another place to go. I wanted to be around people.”

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Mary Clifford, a volunteer during the feast, said she used to come to the Salvation Army for meals. Now, she’s giving back. She and her husband Terry have been meal prepping for nearly two weeks, and with the help of local restaurants and other volunteers, cooked and served 52 turkeys.

Tim Donovan, chair of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, said last year the organization served 118 dinners. This year, they expect to serve at least that many. That’s in addition to about 500 meals that volunteers delivered Thursday morning to senior citizens and those unable to leave their homes.

“As a board member, I love volunteering here,” Donovan said. “What the Salvation Army does here for the community is wonderful.”

Besides the deliveries and dinner, Donovan said volunteers brought meals to Chapel House, a local homeless shelter, and to the Underground Cafe where some who are homeless have been known to stop by for a Thanksgiving meal. The two delivery stops were a new undertaking for the Salvation Army, and Donovan said it allowed them to reach more people.

Major Karen Smullen, a corps officer who has been with the Salvation Army for about 35 years, said she was amazed by the number of volunteers, too, who donated their time. She said about 100 people helped throughout the day, and that included the Hammersley family. Their first time volunteering at the event, the family of four from Weedsport said they were happy to be able to help and serve others.

The day’s youngest volunteer, 13-year-old Madison Mitchell of Auburn, said this was her second year helping out at Thanksgiving. She was inspired to start by her nanna, Robin Mott, who volunteers at the Salvation Army on Sundays.

“I like seeing a lot of people from the community,” Mitchell said.

That’s what Hamspon and Deal enjoy, too. With a Christmas tree sparkling at the front of the dining room, the smell of turkey in the air, holiday music played by Chris Molloy on the harp, and company around the tables, it was a warm and festive scene.

“This is my home away from home,” Deal said, laughing. “I look forward to this. I really do.”