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Salvation Army hosts Thanksgiving dinner event in downtown Phoenix

Posted at 4:57 PM, Nov 22, 2018

Almost 1,000 people showed up to enjoy the annual Thanksgiving feast put on by the Salvation Army of metro Phoenix on Thursday. 

It takes three days to prepare for the big meal. Major Nancy Dihle with the Salvation Army said it would not be possible without the help of about 800 volunteers that showed up to help.  

From preparing meals to setting the table, serving, escorting the guests to their tables, volunteers performed a wide array of duties.

Carla Donaldson the owner of Salon Izzy provided free haircuts and manicures for hundreds of guests who showed up for the Thanksgiving feast.

"I wanted my Thanksgiving to mean more than just something I do all the time, "said Donaldson.

The convention center hall had a large screen set up for guests to sit back and enjoy football. There was an area set up for prayers and counseling, and volunteers handed out clothing and toiletries to those in need.

Phoenix Mayoral candidate Kate Gallego attended the event said she was impressed by the small touches that added flavor to the celebration.

"There's football on just like there would be at home. You can get a manicure, you can get your hair done, there is no waiting in lines, and they use real china," said Gallego.

Major Nancy Dihle said the small details made a big difference to those who attended.

"We want people to feel well loved and well cared for. When you go to a family member's home you get all those special touches. We want them to go home today feeling like they got those special touches and their whole person is taken care of," said Dihle.

Guests were served all of the traditional Thanksgiving Day fixings, along with Pumpkin pie, cookies, and coffee. 

Joseph Degraft-Johnson was one of the hundreds of volunteers who helped serve guests at the dinner. He brought his whole family with him, including his five and 10-year-old daughters.  

Degraft-Johnson said he woke up in the morning and decided to go help out at the dinner on a whim. He hoped to be an example to his daughters.

"What I hope is they learn to serve people. It doesn't matter where they're from, what background you are. Everybody sometimes needs help," said Degraft-Johnson.

Among the guests were those who were homeless, those who lived in shelters, and many others who were alone for Thanksgiving, along with those who could not afford to buy a full Thanksgiving meal.

"I just had a father that came up with two sons and said I had nowhere to go. I just want you to know how important it was for me to be here with my sons. That is why we do what we do," added Major Dihle.

Phoenix Mayoral candidate Daniel Valenzuela also attended the event. 

"I know what it's like to be on the receiving end. I've got to tell you, it is the generosity of my community, my hometown that has led me into a life of service," said Valenzuela.

Salvation Army staff said they served up more than 1,350 pounds of turkey, 75 gallons of gravy, 1,000 pounds of potatoes, and 3,700 slices of pie.

The Salvation Army's bell ringing campaign is also now in full swing.  

Money raised during the campaign helps fund many local activities and programs in the area. If you'd like to donate you can drop off your cash inside a red kettle you will find outside many retail stores throughout the Valley.  

You can also donate online, through the mail: 2707 East Van Buren Street, Phoenix, AZ 85008 or call 1 (800) SAL-ARMY.