Salvation Army provides meals for needy families at Golden Hall

SAN DIEGO - The Salvation Army will cook up a feast for needy families in San Diego Thursday, sustaining a tradition that began 125 years ago.

The social service organization arrived in San Diego in 1887, and members marched the streets banging drums and inviting people to join them for a hot meal, said spokeswoman Suzi Woodruff Lacey.

She pointed to a San Diego Union newspaper article published seven years later that showed that in 1894, the event grew so popular that the Salvation Army provided 250 pounds of turkey, 250 loaves of bread and 150 pounds of beef to the hungry.

This year's feast is the 29th provided by the organization at Golden Hall in downtown San Diego. The amount of food has grown considerably -- to 800 pounds of turkey, 500 pounds of dressing, 500 pounds of green beans, 400 pounds of mashed potatoes and 2,000 slices of pumpkin pie.

The Salvation Army moved its annual holiday meal to Golden Hall in 1983, funded with donations from Joan Kroc, the now-deceased widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. Joan Kroc. She gave millions to the organization and often volunteered as a server, according to Woodruff Lacey.

Around 300 volunteers are expected to serve Thursday, she said.

Holiday meals will also be given to low-income seniors at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center, 1525 Fourth Ave.; and to active-duty military and their families at the USO San Diego Downtown Center, 202 A St.

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