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The take-out experience presents a shift for Kerrville Salvation Army's Thanksgiving efforts

Usually hundreds dine-in at The Kroc, but in 2021 the take-out effort was the driving force of Thanksgiving dinner.

If there is one metric of the enduring power of the coronavirus pandemic, it manifested itself at Thursday's Thanksgiving celebration at the Kerrville Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

The metric? Take out versus dine-in. In years past, hundreds enjoyed a dine-in dinner at The Kroc, but it was decidedly a take-out experience this year.

That doesn't mean that it dampened the enthusiasm for the event or the day. It was just quieter than most. In the halls of the Kroc, people streamed in to pick up food — very few ventured inside to enjoy the dine-in experience.

For those who watched, it was clear that the pandemic's impact of not wanting to be in a crowded space was a deterrent, but the measurement of success was the Kroc's staff and volunteers served food to those who asked for it.

"I tell you it touches people's lives," said Ed Lawrence, the Kroc's chef.

The Kroc Center's Ed Lawrence puts turkey into a warming oven before Thanksgiving lunch is served on Thursday.

Lawrence and his crew cooked 500 pounds of turkey and hundreds of more pounds of the side dishes. There were so many to-go orders that the Kroc almost ran out of containers.

Out on Interstate 10, at the eastbound rest stop between Kerrville and Comfort, volunteer Kirby Davis said the highlight of his day was serving a Thanksgiving meal to a family traveling in a big rig truck.

Davis said he and volunteer Jared Graf served the family of five, including three children under seven years old. Another woman, who didn't want to give her name, traveled from Los Angeles to Corpus Christi with her 13-month old daughter. She stopped to change her daughter's diaper and walkabout and was delighted by the offering.

By 11:30 a.m., the Salvation Army crew on Interstate 10 served about 20 people.

Salvation Army volunteer Kirby Davis provides a meal to a woman traveling from Los Angeles to Corpus Christ on Thanksgiving.

Those who volunteered did so for various reasons, from making it an annual tradition to a pair of Mormon missionaries who said they were performing their calling to serve the community.

"It's good; there's a lot of people coming out to volunteer," said Capt. Jeremiah Romack, who leads the Kroc along with his wife Maj. Missy Romack.

The Rackley family serves up turkey dinners on Thursday at Kerrville's Kroc Center.

An entire family — the Rackleys — served food on the line. Other families were serving food or running food out to the cars waiting in the parking lot.

"It's good to see the families come in and volunteer," said Maj. Missy Romack, who brought the couple's daughters Emmy, 8, and Addison, 13.

Floating around the day was the Salvation Army's Molly Putnam, who has helped oversee the event for a decade, and who was plenty busy on Thursday.

"We have food for 1,200 people," Putnam said.

As the event came to a close, the small inside numbers wouldn't deter the Salvation Army's work because the food was saved, ready to be served to others later in the day and on Friday.

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