Bill Arnold is thankful just to be alive.
“I’m 72,” he said, laughing.
Arnold and his wife were eating their Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army Church in Kenai. About 20 others were seated at tables enjoying their meals, also.
He said sometimes people judge those who feed from charities like the Salvation Army — and that is wrong.
In 1992 and 1993 Arnold said he was doing poorly — during those two years he said he would not have eaten a Thanksgiving meal if it had not been for the charity of others.
“I mean, some of these people who look down on other people have no business doing that because some time in their lives they’re going to be confronted with a similar situation where they’re down and out,” he said.
Throughout the day more people filed into the Salvation Army for a Thanksgiving meal. Envoy Craig Fanning said the Salvation Army has held to the tradition for more than 20 years, but they were not the only ones feeding those who needed company or a meal.
In Nikiski, Charlie’s Pizza also was feeding those who didn’t have families to eat with or those who couldn’t afford Thanksgiving.
“Some of these people don’t have a lot, and you see them everyday and they’re proudly struggling,” said Felix Martinez, a 56-year-old Nikiski resident who donated food for the event.
For those who were too proud to accept the free food, volunteers drove to their houses. Charlie’s Pizza owner Steve Chamberlain, 45, counted more than 70 houses that they delivered to.
“When you help on Thanksgiving, you’re helping the needy,” said his wife, Jennifer Chamberlain, “but I’ve discovered there’s a different kind of needy in the community and that’s people who want to give.”
Jennifer, 39, said often they don’t have an outlet.
“When you give that outlet by doing something like this it makes people so happy to be able to help,” the Nikiski resident said.
She said they received so many donations and volunteers they had to start turning people back. She said they will give all their leftovers and donated money to the United Methodist Church of Nikiski, a stand-in local food bank.
“It feels good inside, deep down, and that’s what it’s all about,” Steve Chamberlain said.
He said more than 20 people came through his doors for food.
Nikiski resident Sam Card said he would probably be reading at home, thinking about heating up a pot of chili he made earlier in the week if he hadn’t met his friends at Charlie’s Pizza.
He sat at the corner table with an empty plate listing the things he is thankful for.
“Just being alive,” the 62-year-old said. “God, there’s so many things to be thankful for. I’m thankful for the sunshine. I’m thankful for this group that put the dinner on today.”
His friend Gabby Hull, 60, and Gabby Hull’s grandson Aaron Hull sat down at the table.
“And I’m thankful for friends, like this guy Gabby; he’s been a friend for a long time,” Card said. “We’re trying to name all the things we’re thankful for, Gabby.”
Gabby said he’s thankful to be alive, too.
“Yeah, that’s a good thing to be thankful for,” Card said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.