Salvation Army feeds 700
Vesper Starr wore makeup and a long blue dress with sparkles.
It was Thanksgiving, and she wanted to look the part.
Starr arrived to dine at the Elks Lodge basement shortly after 11 a.m. in Grand Junction. A hostess showed her to a table decorated with a floral centerpiece and placements.
Cal Queal was at the piano. Servers filled Starr’s plate with traditional Thanksgiving food, and people in aprons milled around to ensure she was happy.
Could she get more gravy, Starr asked sheepishly.
Of course, she was told.
It was like a five-star restaurant, she added.
But the best part of the day, said Starr, 43 and homeless, was that she never felt judged.
Starr was one of an estimated 700 people of all ages and all walks of life to attend The Salvation Army’s Community Thanksgiving meal at the Elks Lodge this year.
The free meal is open to anyone thanks to donations of time, money and food from the community.
“It’s called Community Thanksgiving for a reason,” said Claudia Jackson, director of public relations for The Salvation Army.
Between bites Thursday, Starr said she lost everything when she fled Utah because of domestic violence. She’s a recovering alcoholic, which comes with its own set of struggles and judgment, she added.
It’s been a difficult, sometimes depressing, time in her life, but on Thursday she was thankful for The Salvation Army’s event.
“A lot of people went to a lot of work to do this for me,” Starr said.
Knowing others cared about her Thanksgiving prompted Starr to dress up and wear makeup “to make it a special day.”
Sibyl Marsh, office manager for The Salvation Army, said organizers and volunteers aspire to make the Elks Lodge basement an inviting, welcoming restaurant for everyone to enjoy Thanksgiving.
“We live in a wonderful community,” Marsh said. “Everyone works together.”
Consequently, traditions have formed.
Jackson has worked at the event for the past eight years and has learned to recognize faces or stories.
Every year, the same family comes, typically after noon. She looks forward to seeing how much larger their family has grown in size.
Every year, an older couple comes in, the man in a suit, the woman in a dress. They always try to pay.
Every year, the homeless also come.
All these faces, and all these stories mix together. Sometimes, they are seated at the same table.
Katie Tucker, a freshman at Grand Junction High School, has volunteered at the event for as long as she can remember. This is where her family also eats their Thanksgiving meal.
“It’s fun,” she said.
In addition to the Elks Lodge meal this year, The Salvation Army worked with Canyon View Vineyard Church to put together and deliver meals to more than 1,200 shut-ins, Jackson said.