Last week's freshly roasted turkeys are officially past the leftover stage but the feeling of having been a part of a unique Thanksgiving Day experience lingers on.
We did it - served 10,000 turkey dinners on Thursday with a volunteer staff of about 300; backed up by a culinary and operations team of dozens. It took countless planning hours and 5 days of double cooking shifts to prepare.
But the real ingredient was heart. Denise Richardson, of the Salvation Army cooked up this dream months ago and succeeded securing funding the dinner. Preparing and serving it was the easy part.
What follows is a collection of comments from several of the volunteers. Theirs and other's stories can be read in full at GoodWorks@greatperformances.com.
Yonkers Salvation Army. November 26.
I'm struck by how efficient the team of volunteers in the kitchen is. Keeping things going at a steady pace, listening to directions from Joanna, Arielle, and Cynthia -- whoever is calling out. Albert making sure the food is the perfect temperature and the serving trays are full. The four students up from NYU school of public health talking about their work in Tanzania as we all work together to figure out the best way to fill a to-go box so there's maximum food but it still looks nice when it gets opened at home. The steady stream of plates going out to the open gym where people come in and sit with their families, a friend, a stranger -- to eat good food together. Good people serving good people on a holiday. As family does.
I was thinking that I might not send anything at all as all my thoughts seemed trite and cliché: it's important to give back; it's a blessing to be able to help people even on just one day; Thanksgiving is only one day of the year but our duties to each other remain constant.
But I am emailing you to share one brief moment of the day. As I was walking down the hallway, I stopped by a guest and her granddaughter holding 2 takeaway boxes. I wished her a happy Thanksgiving and she smiled: "I wasn't going to be able to have Thanksgiving this year because I couldn't afford it, so thank you all." (Continued)
My family and I arrived in Harlem at 9am Thanksgiving morning and left six hours later which several new perspectives. Coming from privileged surroundings, it was terrific to see the joy and appreciation on the faces of the men, women and children who came to the Salvation Army on Martin Luther King Boulevard to enjoy a hot Thanksgiving meal. But just as enlightening was the experience we all had working in the kitchen, where everyone worked hard to keep the food hot. The kids developed a new appreciation for "the kitchen" and now understand the expression: "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." One of the most amazing things in our discovery was to learn that even large quantities of food could be made to be delicious
What an amazing day! So many different people and personalities coming together and working so magically as a team. It truly epitomized the spirit of Thanksgiving, and it was obvious that everyone there was finding many things to be thankful for.
So many of the volunteers were eager and excited to help in any way needed - especially the younger ones (I had a few teenagers), and it was wonderful to see the hard working teenagers inspire and put smiles on the adults!
I know some new friendships were started that day, and it was the volunteers who were truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing day.
4:30am and the alarm goes off and it was time to wake my 3 boys to head off to the Harlem Temple. My youngest son Elliot was very torn between wanting to volunteer and "doing the right thing" and giving up a portion of his Thanksgiving Day, to spend time with his cousins who he rarely gets to see. I was proud that he chose to "do the right thing" and help others less fortunate. In the end, the four of us had a great day feeding people that really needed a good meal. I know we got more out of it than the people we fed. It made our evening with 26 members of our family at our house much more meaningful.
Yesterday meant a lot to me personally and professionally. A testament to my crew of cooks and sous chefs that we could all band together and accomplish such an important undertaking. It was inspiring to travel throughout the city to see the thousands of people enjoying the basic needs that we all should have the right to; nourishment for the body and soul.
We stood near the wall by the corner of the gym at the Salvation Army facility on 138th and Lenox. A long table at one end held two piles of white plastic plates, then a heavy-duty tin foil container, warmed by two sternos, with string beans; next, a foil with stuffing; next; yams; next, mashed potatoes; then, the heart of the matter--turkey slices in turkey juices. This is where I stood, my colleague on the other side of the table. A plate would work its way down each side of the table, and a server on each side of a foil would ladle his or her responsibility on it. (Continued)
Good morning, I want to say, thank you for giving the opportunity to volunteer at the Salvation Army; The experience was socially inspiring and rewarding, not only did I enjoy the staff and other volunteer from G.P and GS, but I feel I made a difference for people who use the pantry to get food on Thanksgiving day.
Thanksgiving 2009 was easily the most gratifying Thanksgiving of my Life- yes it was missing family, and yes it was devoid of Football but as I sat down to eat my own Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, I couldn't help but feel a little giddy at what I participated in earlier that morning. I helped feed 1500 people at East Harlem earlier that morning as part of the GP/ GS team over at East Harlem on 125th Street and 3rd Avenue. It started out like any other workday- wake up and get to 125th street at 6:30 AM where the GP drivers were already waiting to get in and unload the 16 proofers filled with turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mash potato, green beans and of course Gravy. (Continued)
Good turn out again this year with a better venue. Goldman employees are great!! Especially Mike age 12[a Goldman son} and Beyonce's brother age 11 [I forgot his name but I think he is also a Goldman son] an aspiring chef who 's favorite person is Gordon Ramsey--he likes the way he yells at his chefs. And Bob Paul is in trouble! I want him as a KA!
This is what my father has done all his life--he still belongs to the American Legion and in fact is being made honorary Commander of New York this coming Feb--he says "he takes care of widows, orphans and the disadvantaged.As for my sister she follows in the family tradition of helping others volunteering at many different venues.
I have to say that I'm not a morning person and to be there early in the morning it was already a challenge for me. When I got into the Flushing Salvation Army I found the GP drivers already unloading the truck and then I thought "well I guess somebody else had woke up earlier than me and is already working harder" that is when I took a deep breath and felt ready to be part of the team, a team that was there ready to help and ready to bring some joy to people than for one reason or another was going to share a Thanksgiving meal with a bunch of strangers that probably won't see again in their lives. (Continued)
As a mother, I enjoyed the company of my kids, and felt very proud seeing them working together. The part that made me laugh is when I dropped the tray of string beans; it felt as if it was my first day working in the kitchen and the funny part is that the first thing I advised my kids was to be careful not to drop anything and it was me who end up making a mess.
I had an amazing time volunteering with GP at the Jamaica Center location. It was great to see the caring, kind-hearted sides of everyone. (Sometimes living in NYC makes you forget people have those sides). And, selfishly, I got so much out of the volunteer experience: I spent the day meeting new people from every walk of life... and after the volunteer day ended, I spent the rest of the holiday hopping around the city with about ten of my brand new friends!
I just want to say that working on Thanksgiving Day was a great experience. To be part of the Great Performances voluntary employees, I was grateful and blessed to feed people that thanked you with a big smile in their face. Thanks for giving me this opportunity and great experience