Communities serve free Thanksgiving meals throughout Shreveport

Thanksgiving during the pandemic

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The COVID-19 pandemic could not stop some big traditions from going forward in Shreveport, including free Thanksgiving Day dinners offered by several local agencies.

The Salvation Army gave out 1,000 Thanksgiving meals right outside their front doors off Stoner Avenue in Shreveport.

That’s where they served both walk-up guests and those going through the drive-thru service.

For guests like Rolando Robledo this meal is a godsend.

“I live by myself and so I don’t cook. I eat sandwiches. But every year I do this because I don’t cook,” said Rolando Robledo.

But making all those meals in the midst of a worsening pandemic is a heavy lift for any organization.

Lt. Jamaal Ellis, Corps Officer of the Salvation Army of Northwest Louisiana, said it requires all sorts of challenges, like social distancing and mask wearing, to name just a few.

“I think the biggest challenge that we face is we don’t get to sit with people this year. That’s the biggest challenge this year because Thanksgiving is real relational. Breaking bread together and fellowshipping together,” said Ellis.

Many of the people who arrived for the holiday meal said they are just grateful organizations like the Salvation Army have been so flexible and creative.

“I think it’s a great way to still help the community and those who will be, and those who will be without a Thanksgiving meal and those who would be alone,” said Cynthia High.

Some Salvation Army volunteers see their work in helping others as an article of faith.

“That’s what God wants you to do. That’s what God wants you to do. He said love one another. And how can you love your sister or your brother, whom you’ve never seen,” said volunteer Parlee Young.

Lt. Ellis says this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is much more critical for those who face an uncertain future.

“We need Thanksgiving to be good. We need Thanksgiving to be successful. We need to be able to come along side people in a real way this year in the wake of this pandemic.”

Just a few miles north, in downtown Shreveport, the local homeless shelter, known as the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission planned to serve 1,300 Thanksgiving meals, as well.

That included 300 meals served at the mission, with the other thousand meals delivered by volunteers to people who could not make it there.

Some guests may have expressed serious concerns about the COVID-19 virus, others like Charles Fortson said they understand why so many Americans just want to be with family right now.

“Family needs to be together. People need to be together during the holidays , especially the ones that have lost everything. They need to know they still have that support. You know, someone they can be with, food to put in their stomach, just make things seem normal,” said Forston.

Shelter residents like Randy McGlynn, say you should not have a problem if you simply follow those same guidelines we hear about every day.

“No, as long as you keep distance and keep your mask on you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. Other than that it’s pretty good, pretty safe in here so far,” said McGlynn.

And Fortson was among the guests who said they are just grateful for having a warm holiday dinner.

“A lot of people wouldn’t eat. You know, a lot of restaurants aren’t open so there’s no, I hate to say it, dumpsters for people to go into, looking for food to eat...yeah, a lot of people wouldn’t be eating today.”

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