4:57 p.m. PST November 26, 2015
Though it was below freezing Thanksgiving morning, the sun was shining.
Under the rays, nearly 150 people in need gathered under the Marion Street Bridge to get a Thanksgiving meal from the Feed the Need food truck event.
One man, after having filled a bag of food, said, “I’m blinded,” referring to the striking sun.
“Yeah, it’s very bright today,” I replied.
He smiled and said, “In more ways than one.”
This was the general feeling of the event — joy, kindness and generosity. Those receiving food were very appreciative, as were those volunteering.
As one person thanked a volunteer, the volunteer responded, “No, thank you.”
People overwhelmingly treated each other with dignity, as those in need chose what holiday fixings they preferred.
I was even asked if I would give out hugs. I happily obliged.
Volunteers, both food truck owners and other locals, gave out a full to-go meal, served in a paper bag, which could include hot turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, fresh baked rolls, pies — many of which were donated by fellow community members two days before — water and other beverages. There were stations with hot coffee, toiletry kits, and food for pets as well.
Sarah Carpenter, one of the owners of The Laughing Lunchbox, organized the event.
She said there were at least 30 volunteers helping. She added they were willing to drive around town passing out any extra food they had once the event was over.
Carpenter said she hasn’t done anything like this before, but after starting her and her husband’s food truck in March, they wanted to help during the holidays.
“There is a lot of excess during the holidays that can be given to others,” she said.
Carpenter greeted each individual in line with a hug and a smile, welcoming them and wishing them a happy holiday.
Various shelters were contacted beforehand in the hopes that people in difficult situations may have a better chance of hearing about it.
Laura Johansen and her daughter Melody Foster volunteered for the first time this year.
“Personally, I got tired of sitting at home and eating,” Johansen said. “I wanted to help.”
Tino Land, one of the owners of JT’s Food Truck, brought his family to volunteer as well.
“It’s great to see Salem come together like this,” he said.
And as fellow Statesman Journal reporter Carol Currie once told me, when covering Thanksgiving, reporters get to the unique opportunity to hear stories from people they might otherwise not hear from.
On Thursday, I found that to be true.
I, a huge dog lover, saw one large dog wrapped in a thick blanket. I walked over and asked if I could pet her.
Zachary Aldeguer has been with Annabelle, a newly homeless dog, for just a short time.
Instead of standing in line, Aldeguer and Annabelle sat on the side as he played the violin for all to enjoy.
Though he grabbed some food for Annabelle at the start of the event, he waited until the line was almost finished before he got any for himself.
Nick Mulligan, 43, originally from Ventura, California, usually spends Thanksgiving with his family, but wasn’t able to this year. He said it was like he was living in an ice town on Thursday.
Nonetheless, while he was staying at the Union Gospel Mission Men’s Mission nearby downtown, he heard they were giving out food for Thanksgiving and he got a ticket to stand in line.
We moved through the line together as we talked, his smile showing through his big, bold beard.
Without a phone or access to his email on the holiday, he wasn’t able to solidify other plans with anyone else, but planned to hang out with friends at the shelter.
He said his favorite Thanksgiving food is the day-after turkey sandwiches he makes with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.
He was very appreciative of the event.
“It puts a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces and feeds a lot of hungry people,” he said. “It also brings together a lot of people who wouldn’t be together otherwise.”
Natalie Pate/First Person
npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, follow on Twitter @Nataliempate