Thanksgiving a day to rejuvenate for Salvation Army officers before busy Christmastime
Thanksgiving for many Salvation Army officers isn’t much different from regular folks’ holiday. If their Salvation Army doesn’t host a soup kitchen meal and/or deliver food to shut-ins, they will have the whole day to spend with their family.
It is their last day to relax before the hectic Christmas season starts Friday. While Angel Tree signups have already happened and some bell ringing has begun, the majority of The Salvation Army’s Christmas season starts with the Red Kettle Kickoff during the Dallas Cowboys game Thanksgiving evening.
That kickoff makes the Cowboys game part of a great number of Salvation Army families’ Thanksgiving. Officers from several Kentucky corps said they watch the game – or at least the Red Kettle Kickoff at halftime.
“After dinner, it’s usually football: the Cowboys game and another one. We watch the Cowboys game for the halftime, for sure,” said Lt. Ashley Reckline of Middlesboro, who celebrates the day with her husband, Lt. Chris, and their son.
Hanging out with the family on Thanksgiving is vitally important, the officers said, especially in Salvation Army posts that are far from relatives, which prevents the relatives from visiting or them traveling. In these cases, it’s generally just the officers and their young children who are together.
They all named activities besides watching football that they do on Thanksgiving. A big one is putting up Christmas decorations; several officers said they put their decorations and Christmas trees up on Thanksgiving, if not earlier.
“The year before last, my granddaughter was with us, and we put up the Christmas tree,” said Major Amy Edmonds, who admitted that she and her husband, James, skipped that last year (though she still decorated with her nativity scene, which she displays year-round). “This year, I am determined to put one up! We’ll do that on Thanksgiving.”
Reckline, whose family starts decorating for Christmas the first weekend after Halloween, said it’s important to inject that Christmas spirit into Thanksgiving because if not, the busyness of the upcoming season cause people to lose their spirit. On Thanksgiving, her six-year-old son gets in the mood by watching “Elf” while his parents do the dishes.
Other family activities include watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which the Recklines do, and helping others, which Paducah Salvation Army Lt. John Horton and his family did when they worked in Chattanooga. He and his wife, Lt. Monica, took their three older kids to volunteer at another local Salvation Army corps’ meal.
In addition to that meal, the family Thanksgiving dinner is a big one for the Hortons, who share it with his father-in-law (a cancer survivor) and mother-in-law. “She is an extremely exceptional cook! She has some great food,” he said of his wife’s mom.
Maj. Edmonds said, “I’ll probably cook a full meal even if it’s just my husband and I. There are a few volunteers we like to invite if they have no family or anywhere to go.”
Their daughter’s family lives 13 hours away, so they won’t be attending. Instead, the Edmond spent a week there in October with them.
“I’m a little sad that they’re so far away. I’m on the phone and FaceTime all the time. We definitely will FaceTime on Thanksgiving,” said Edmonds, who noted that in addition to being thankful for her family, she’s also thankful for FaceTime for connecting them.
Reckline, whose closest relative lives five hours away, is also thankful for her family, including her Salvation Army family.
“Because our blood family lives hours away and we don’t get to see them on a daily basis, we really rely on our corps family and the love and support they show us,” she said. “We’re in a very small town, so it’s really nice to be able to call on people as family. We’re grateful for the love and support they show us.”
The other officers agreed. Owensboro Salvation Army Capt. Lorraina Crawford said her family just moved there in June, and the corps has been amazingly helpful through all of the family’s stresses. This includes her father’s death in October and not just their own move but also their son’s move to college.
“The people here have been so helpful to me and my family with what we’ve gone through. This is just another time that I am able to look over the past couple months and thank God that he moved us where there are people around us who can support us.”
Starting Friday, those people will support the Crawfords through the Christmas season with Angel Tree and the Red Kettle campaign. On Thanksgiving Day, though, the family is going to relax and not worry about those things.
“We’ll just get some rest, which is what we need,” she said. “This is our final time to get a breather before being underwater for a while. It’s the simplicity of being together and having rest, which God tells us we need to have.”
“We just want to relax and rejuvenate, so we can push through until Christmas,” Horton said – a sentiment shared by most other Salvation Army officers.