BRADENTON -- Kitchen manager Tom Giglio was double-checking preparations Wednesday afternoon for the Salvation Army's Thanksgiving dinner.
At 7 a.m. Thursday, the first dozen turkeys go into the Salvation Army's big ovens at 1204 14th St. W. In all, 125 of the big birds will be cooked and served.
Also on the menu: 250 pounds of stuffing, 175 pounds of green beans, 250 pounds of mashed potatoes and 150 pies.
Dinner will be served from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday to more than 500 men, women, and children, including regular Salvation Army clients, as well as anyone else wanting a meal. No invitation or RSVP is required.
About 30 volunteers will serve the food.
In spite of the mammoth size of the holiday meal, there was no panic Wednesday in the Salvation Army kitchen.
"I owned two restaurants in town, and I come from a big Italian family where I cooked for 95 people at my house," Giglio said.
Also helping out were kitchen cook Steve Gergle and kitchen assistant Jason Cooper.
"We stick to a very traditional Thanksgiving meal. That way everyone knows what to expect when they come here," said Christine Smith, community relations and development director.
In addition to the turkey served Thursday, the Sal
vation Army already has distributed 450 turkeys to families as a gift from the Clearwater Salvation Army, Smith said.
One reason the prospect of cooking a big holiday meal fails to daunt the Salvation Army's kitchen staff is because it cooks meals 365 days a year. Wednesday's dinner was lasagna.
"I have a passion for cooking," Giglio said, adding he will rise at 3 a.m. Thursday to start his day.
With Thanksgiving this week and Christmas in December, this is the busiest time of the year for the Salvation Army, Smith said.
"It takes so many hands and a lot of effort," Smith said, to conduct the Angel Tree and adopt-a-family programs, and fill the food pantry.
Bayside Community Church will use the Salvation Army kitchen and dining room to cook and serve breakfast Thursday morning.
"Last year we served 300. We anticipate 250 to 350 this year and are prepared to serve whoever comes," said Christine Monroe-Loomes, executive director of Bayside's downtown ministries.
Breakfast will be served from 6:30 to 8 a.m.
In addition, Saint Stephen AME Church, 629 Martin Luther King Ave E., will serve lunch at noon until the food is gone, according to a flier at the One Stop Center.
The soup kitchen at Our Daily Bread will be closed on Thanksgiving.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.