Thanksgiving dinner will only be a reality for a lot of people in the area thanks to the efforts of the Salvation Army and Centenary United Methodist Church.

For the past six years, the two organizations have been partnering to provide a turkey or ham with all the trimmings.

This year’s effort came to fruition Tuesday morning in the fellowship hall of the McComb church, where volunteers handed out 118 bags of non-perishable “fixings” to elderly and disabled people who had signed up for vouchers.

The church provided the fixings, while the Salvation Army gave vouchers for a turkey or ham.

“I assemble a bag with a list on it and I put them out two, three weeks ahead of time,” said Connie Felter, one of Centenary’s volunteers. “Our members go out and do the shopping and they bring them back and I go through each bag because invariably somebody will forget to buy something and I go and purchase those items that I need to fill in.”

The Salvation Army vets those who sign up for vouchers and brings in volunteers to distribute the food. This year’s crew of helpers consisted of Jackson State University Alumni Association members.

“They have it down to a fine art, I can tell you,” Felter said.

In addition to collecting the groceries, the church also blesses them before the distribution.

“They were blessed this past Sunday. We put them up in the sanctuary and the children and the pastor blessed them, so they have been prayed over also,” Felter said.

Salvation Army director Brenda Kates said the vouchers for turkeys and hams go to the McComb Market.

“That’s the main thing — I like to support our local business owners because if we support them we hope they’ll support us,” she said. “We promise as much of our money, because we’re getting it from the community, to stay in the community. I try to support as many local businesses as I can for our daily operations and things like the Thanksgiving basket.”

Kates said the help Centenary provides is extremely beneficial during the Salvation Army’s busiest time of year.

“In addition to them helping us with the Thanksgiving baskets they also adopt about 40 angels off our Angel Tree program and they have been doing that forever,” she said. “They were doing that before we even started doing the Thanksgiving thing.”

While the Thanksgiving dinner drive is complete, Kates said now is the time the Salvation Army turns to the general public to help fulfill its other charitable missions.

The organization’s red kettle campaign — the biggest fundraiser for its yearly operations — begins Friday.

Kettles will be located at Walmart, Kroger and the McComb Market in McComb, the Piggly Wiggly in Summit and the Sunflower in Magnolia.

Collections will help with disaster relief and utility assistance, among the Salvation Army’s numerous other programs, across seven Southwest Mississippi counties and two Louisiana parishes.

In addition to donations, the Salvation Army needs volunteer bell-ringers, Kates said.

“We are still in desperate need of some volunteers in McComb. Our volunteer base in McComb is down this year,” she said.

Additionally, the Angel Tree program, in which benefactors can “adopt” a needy child by buying them toys or clothing is ongoing.

“We have 216 angels that need Christmas toys and clothing this year,” Kates said. “We’re asking the community also, if they would, go to the Walmart in McComb, Brookhaven, Keith White Ford, our family store and the Edgewood Mall and adopt an angel off the tree so we can help the children for Christmas this year.”

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