With Greenberg turkeys and pies scattered all around the Tyler Salvation Army lunchroom, volunteers were ready to kick off their yearly tradition of giving back to the local community in need.

Slicing turkey for the first time, volunteer Eddie Zea was putting his skills to the test during the prepping session on Wednesday ahead of the big Thursday lunch.

“I only get a chance to volunteer during Thanksgiving. I’ve been volunteering for the past four or five years. Usually I volunteer on Thanksgiving Day but I signed up late this year, so I did it (Wednesday). This is the first time I helped the day before, I’m just glad I got to help out ...” Zea said.

Working with a perfectionist mindset, Zea said his experience slicing the turkey was fun and enjoyable.

Other volunteers consisted of ladies from the Order of the Eastern Star Rose of Tyler chapter and Jazzy Jewels Social Club, which are a group of individuals who perform community service in Smith County.

Nikki Wade, Worthy Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star Rose of Tyler chapter, said the chapter has been volunteering for 10 years and this was her second time cutting turkey slices.

“I like helping people. I have a soft spot for that because you never know when you may be in that position, and just giving back,” she said. “We’re just happy to be here and be part of this.”

Livera Johnson, Jazzy Jewels social club member, also said the community service club has done Thanksgiving dinner volunteering for a decade and enjoys helping out during holidays.

“It feels great, we definitely love giving back to the community, helping the unfortunate, and helping serve those so they could have a place to come eat for Thanksgiving,” Johnson said.

Volunteers were given a time frame of four hours to slice the turkeys and slice pies. This year’s Thanksgiving meal includes cornbread dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, candied yams, dinner rolls and either pecan or sweet potato pie.

Jeremy Walker, Captain Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army in Tyler, said there were over 120 volunteers who signed up.

“We rely on a lot of volunteers to come and help,” he said. “We are so grateful and thankful for those that roll their sleeves and take time out of their holiday to come out and help those that are in need.”

According to Walker, there are many who help out for the yearly Thanksgiving dinner, from volunteers, staff and those who donate items for the special holiday event.

“Sam Greenburg and his family donated the turkeys to us, we’re so blessed to have that,” he said.

“We have people that come every year that make this a family tradition to come out and serve but also come out during other times because we feed 365 days a year. Every year I have this conversation with volunteers when they ask if we do this every year — and we do this every day. But during the holidays we want to do as much as we can and so does the community, so we’re very grateful and thankful for those who come out and help.”

Walker said although the Thanksgiving dinner brings in many volunteers, there are other areas that also need help like the Red Kettle Campaign and the Angel Tree program during the holidays.

“We’re going to help 1.200 kids and seniors get Christmas this year and we’re trying to raise our funding for not only Christmas but for the rest of the year,” he said.

The Salvation Army was planning to feed up to 1,000 guests Thursday at the lunch, set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., along with a family-style dinner for those staying at the Salvation Army.

For those wanting to volunteer and assist the Salvation Army in Tyler, go to registertoring.com.


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Video Editor / Bilingual Multimedia Journalist

Photographer and video editor for Tyler Paper but I also cover community outreach, bilingual content, events and education. Stephen F. Austin State University Alumna. Houstonian reporting in East Texas since January 2021. Story ideas? email me at aconejo@tylerpaper.com