Wanted: Thanksgiving turkeys for Salvation Army

BRADENTON -- Thanksgiving Day was still 10 days away, but Steve Gergle was already up to his elbows in prepping turkeys.

“You’ve got to have strong fingers for this job,” said The Salvation Army kitchen manager, as he pried the breast bone from another bird Tuesday morning.

There were three more to do in the metal tray before him.

Nearby, Gergle’s assistant Frances Keime and volunteer Naomi Hernandez were deboning more turkeys.

They’d have 18 done by noon, another 16 after lunch.

“We did 50 birds since last Friday,” Gergle said. “But we need more -- at least 75 more.”

That’s for the hundreds of folks who will come to The Salvation Army on Thanksgiving for this traditional dinner.

Last year, 700 meals were served.

This year?

“We expect the same, if not more,” said Christine Smith, the nonprofit’s director of community relations and development. “We’re finding a lot more families in need.”

Gergle can tell.

“I’ve been doing this for five years and it doesn’t get any easier,” he said. “The economy’s bad and you’ve got more and more people who need to be fed.”

Major Ethan Frizzell is well aware of it.

This will be his first Thanksgiving at The Salvation Army’s 14th Street complex and he anticipates a busy day.

Volunteers will serve the hungry who will dine in shifts at the agency’s 15-table cafeteria.

“Our dining room is some people’s home dining room. The more we have from the smell to the taste, it helps people feel comfortable and at home,” Frizzell said. “It’s very appropriate we give them the opportunity to have fellowship, to give thanks to the community whose generosity allows us to provide such services.”

That generosity was evident Monday, for example.

“We just had a couple bring a trunkful of turkeys,” Smith said. “There had to be at least 15 birds. We’re so blessed by this community.”

Besides turkeys, The Salvation Army is in need of the traditional things that go with Thanksgiving dinner -- pies, vegetables, stuffing mix, fruit and potatoes.

“We’d love sweet potatoes if we can get them,” she said.

Meantime, Gergle will be prepping turkeys while he and his staff get ready for the traditional feast.

“I’ll be cooking and cutting right up to the last day,” he said.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do. Nobody goes hungry.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.