OTTUMWA — For older residents alone on Thanksgiving, Thursday may bring a meal and a short visit. For some, it'll be the only person they see that day.
Around 400 people in the community call the Salvation Army of Ottumwa the day before Thanksgiving. They're able to schedule a delivered holiday dinner. But it's more than that, said the site supervisor there for Meals on Wheels.
"We have excellent volunteers that come out that day," said Karen Cooper. "We couldn't make this happen in time without them."
Most days, Cooper and her staff will deliver 150 meals, or 200 on a busy day. So twice that amount takes a lot of work. But the volunteers are usually willing to take a few extra minutes to chat with a resident who doesn't get the chance to socialize much.
"A lot of [volunteers] bring their kids, their families with them. For some older Ottumwans, they may not get to see many children, and that especially brightens their day. The volunteers come back with such heartwarming stories."
"Some folks, that program is their only contact with anyone Monday through Friday," said Salvation Army Captain Ruth Gibbons.
Cooper said human interaction is a valuable part of the program. But the food's not bad, either, she added.
"We have very good cooks," she said.
In fact, that was her explanation when she mentioned the cooks and volunteers will serve three times the number of visitors to the Salvation Army dining room, from 70 on a busy weekday to 250 on Thanksgiving.
Gibbons said they've been blessed this year: They have enough volunteers for this function. The volunteers aren't the only helpers from Ottumwa, she added.
"The Salvation Army gets [assistance from] a community effort," she said. "A lot of the desserts are provided by people who call every year."
But there is room for a few more at the table for dinner at the Salvation Army, which does not require a reservation, or for home delivery, for reservations are requested.
The Salvation Army is at 725 W. Second St, and their number is 641-682-7597.
— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark