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Thanksgiving also a day of service in Albany

Some with Albany public safety and non-profit agencies provide service on the holiday

The Saints of God House of Worship provides a meal on Thanksgiving Day at the Albany Salvation Army on West Second Avenue. The church does the service on the holiday every year. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

The Saints of God House of Worship provides a meal on Thanksgiving Day at the Albany Salvation Army on West Second Avenue. The church does the service on the holiday every year. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

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People wait outside the kitchen entrance of the Albany Rescue Mission on North Monroe Street on Thanksgiving Day. On the holiday, it can take up to an hour to feed everyone who comes in, officials say. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — On a day when many people were gathering with their extended family for a meal or to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, others were giving up that time to provide service to others who need them.

In Albany, public safety officials, as well as those with several non-profit agencies, were either providing meals to the needy or waiting on calls from the city’s residents on Thanksgiving Day.

While they would have preferred to have been with their families, most of those who were working said the good it did to make themselves available to the public was worthwhile.

At the Salvation Army headquarters on West Second Avenue, the Saints of God House of Worship missionary provides weekly meals — including on Thanksgiving Day.

“I look at it as if it wasn’t for this, someone wouldn’t have a meal. (It also helps people) see that God loves them,” said Arthur Lee Wright, pastor of the church. “I feel it is important, to me, to show that God loves them — and we need to show appreciation.”

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The Albany Fire Department is among the public safety agencies that remain active to provide service to the community during the holidays. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

“In turn, people may think and find a way to get out of their situation.”

By noon, it was too early to tell how many people had taken advantage of the Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, but last year, there were roughly 100 people who came in, Wright said.

“Since the good Lord has blessed us to be here, it is important for the church to reach out to them,” he said. “It is worthwhile.”

At the stations connected to the Albany Fire Department, firefighters were on duty responding to calls on the holidays — many of them being cooking fires. They can be busier on such days than other times of year.

In between calls, the firefighters were cooking up their own Thanksgiving meal to share with their “second family.”

“I’m sure the vast majority of people who work (on Thanksgiving) feel a call of duty to people,” AFD Capt. Billy Davis said Thursday. “None of us get rich, so we don’t necessarily do it for the money.

“One of the reasons we choose to be here on a day like today, not that we wouldn’t rather be with our families, it to fulfill a need to serve the community.”

It’s because of this that many firefighters feel it is worth it to be on job on Thanksgiving.

“Just like any other job, you have to make sacrifices,” Davis said.

At the Albany Rescue Mission on North Monroe Street, meals were served to the public on Thanksgiving. At noon, there was a sermon followed by a meal at the agency’s kitchen. After 1 p.m. Thursday, there were still people waiting to receive food.

“(During the holidays) there is an even greater need for this type of service,” said Christopher Liberto, an office manager with Albany Rescue Mission and a member of its board of directors. “It is a 24/7 job. You never know what might happen, with people checking in and out.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, the mission also serves meals on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

“The need is even greater,” Liberto said. “Just because because people have misfortunes doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a meal. It also gets them out of the cold for a while.”

Liberto said that whether the agency stays busier on the holidays depends on what other entities are doing. This Thanksgiving, the traffic was a little slower than he has been used to.

“This year, it was pretty tame. It is usually busier the day before,” he said. “It is busier (than it is typically) because of services and more donations coming in. It can be overwhelming.

” … It may take an hour to feed the public before we can feed our guys.”