The last thing Darwin Cerna expected traveling east on Interstate 10 was a Salvation Army truck at a rest stop, just 2 miles outside of Kerrville, and he wasn’t initially sure what to make of it.
Inside the truck was Roger Williams, a 10-year veteran of Thanksgiving meals, and he was helped by several volunteers from around the Hill Country. Williams was prepping the turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and stuffing for weary travelers.
Weary definitely described Cerna and his family who were making a drive from Los Angeles to Louisiana. They were also a bit pensive about the rest stop offering. That’s until one of Cerna’s sons just rolled up and smartly asked for a meal. Williams gladly handed a meal to the family.
“This is beautiful,” Cerna said. “They don’t do this in (Los Angeles).”
That’s exactly the type of reaction that those at the Salvation Army were probably hoping for as they served hundreds of people Thursday at the Kroc Center in Kerrville and at the westbound and eastbound rest stops on Interstate 10. Volunteers also distributed meals to hundreds more who were homebound.
“It’s an act of compassion,’’ Chef Ed Lawrence said of the work done by dozens of volunteers to help prep, seat and serve those who came to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
This was Lawrence’s first time preparing the meal in Kerrville, the meaning of the work nearly brought him to tears.
“There is no greater job than serving people,” said Lawrence, fighting back the emotions of the day. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Lawrence was joined by assistant chef Bill Hickey, who has been working Kroc Center Thanksgivings for seven years, and the two men, along with numerous volunteers, cooked 350 pounds of turkey, 170 pounds of potatoes, 200 pounds of green beans, 180 pounds of stuffing, 18 gallons of gravy and 200 pies — apple, pumpkin and pecan.
“This is all for God’s word,” Lawrence said. “Everyone here wants to show the love of Jesus.”
Hickey is firm in his commitment that his work makes for a better community.
“It’s a way to bring the community together,” Hickey said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, but we do this for the community.”
Back out on Interstate 10, Cerna’s family is enjoying coffee, Gatorade and some food before piling back into the car and hitting the road. Williams, along with the volunteers, suddenly get busy as people wander over, tentative at first, and then the friendly smile of the volunteers invites them in for a meal or coffee.
“This is wonderful,” said one man as he took food to his car.