This year, they didn’t gather together for long, but the love was still there, maybe more so.

Unlike previous years, when the Lewiston Salvation Army would hold a sit-down holiday dinner for those in the community who needed it, the organization on Thursday offered Thanksgiving to go.

The need to socially distance during a surge in the coronavirus pandemic required the charity to box up dinners for people to safely take with them.

And for those who couldn’t come and get it, a platoon of Interlink Volunteers stood by to deliver the meals to the homebound.

All told, about 250 meals — each with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, a roll, salad, dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie — were delivered Thursday.

“Our whole purpose on this Earth is to help each other out,” Salvation Army volunteer Fran Leone, of Lewiston, said. “I volunteer here because there are so many people who can’t come together to have a hot meal.”

Leone laughed as she described her role as “chief cook and bottle washer.” She’s been volunteering at the Salvation Army the past three years.

Jenny and Thomas Trock, of Orofino, have been volunteering with the Salvation Army for the past three years. On Thursday, they were the king and queen of yams and they helped stuff bags with meals.

“We volunteer because this is serving in Jesus’ name and it’s a great way to serve the community,” Jenny Trock said.

“I’ve been so blessed, man, I just want to give back a little, man, so blessed,” Thomas Trock said. “Because of COVID we weren’t able to sit and talk to them. Everyone has got a story. People are having a hard time. It’s nice to be able to help a little bit.”

Outside the Salvation Army’s 21st Street site, Interlink drivers waited to deliver the meals.

Skye Hamm, of Lewiston, was set to deliver five meals. Once a client of Interlink, which provides transportation services for people in need, drivers shuttled Hamm to and from physical therapy sessions for her knee. She switched from client to driver in January.

“I love it because I’m helping people and it’s a way to give back to my community,” she said. “It wasn’t a hard decision.”

Megan Eck came to Interlink through an web link to LC Valley Pay It Forward. On this holiday, she’s was delivering a meal to a person in Lapwai. As a result, she said, her family will celebrate Thanksgiving today instead.

“I’ve got all day to do this for other people,” Eck said. “It’s something simple to help those in need.”

Tom Dechert, of Clarkston, is back volunteering for the first time since his hip surgery. He volunteers with Interlink and with the Salvation Army.

“To some people, this is really important,” Dechert said. “It can be a long-term lifesaver for some.”

The service in Clarkston also delivers groceries and medications because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Interlink Executive Director Mark Havens said.

Interlink contracts with the Asotin County Health Department to also deliver provisions to those under quarantine. Three or four of the deliveries on Thanksgiving were to people under quarantine. Interlink provided 12 drivers, who delivered 45 meals on Thanksgiving.

“We contacted the Salvation Army because of COVID,” Havens said, noting Interlink was ready to help many churches in the area but they all canceled plans to provide Thanksgiving Day meals. “My staff made a lot of phone calls and this is the only one doing this. They were going to do takeout, and we asked if we could deliver.”

Mia Rognstad, of Lewiston, has volunteered with Interlink for five years.

“It’s hard to pull yourself from your regular Thanksgiving traditions, but I sympathize with people that are less fortunate,” Rognstad said. “It’s nice that I get to do something for someone else.”

Cheryl Fleming, of Clarkston, has been with Interlink for 7 or 8 years. She said she has always believed in volunteering, and this year has meant new tasks and challenges. She has been delivering groceries for the past six months. She used to take women to hair appointments.

“It’s an awesome way to get to know people,” Fleming said. “It’s just fun.”

Edward Schroeder, of Lewiston, was waiting to pick up a Thanksgiving meal for himself. No longer living on and off the streets, he has had a place to call home for the past two years.

“It’s really nice for the Salvation Army to put out these meals,” Schroeder said. “We’ve got it made here in America. We’ve got to feel fortunate for the little things in life.”

Mike Otis, of Clarkston, joked that he was in line because he was 84 years old and tired of cooking. He was picking up a meal because he is a vulnerable adult because of COVID-19.

“I think it’s great,” Otis said. “The Salvation Army’s one of the greatest organizations in my book.”

Danika Colvin, of Clarkston, stood a few feet in line behind Otis. She was there to pick up a meal for a friend who didn’t have anyone to share a meal with this Thanksgiving. A couple of years ago, Colvin and her children were homeless. She remembered the Salvation Army had really good food and more importantly “really nice people.”

“It’s amazing — this agency needs all the donations,” Colvin said. “I know a lot of people in the community depend on this place, and they come through for you.”

Scott Taylor, of Lewiston, was standing in line a few feet behind Colvin. He said he was there to pick up meals for a couple of people he knows who can’t come to pick up the meals themselves.

“It’s a good service that helps people out with COVID and the homeless people,” Taylor said.

Salvation Army Lts. Joleen and David Aycock said they served 250 meals and made 80 deliveries.

“We always want people at the holiday time to experience that joy of the holiday,” Joleen Aycock said. “We want them to experience a family Thanksgiving experience. We want to show them we care about them and God cares about them.”

The pandemic made this year’s Thanksgiving meal different, David Aycock said

“We don’t have our guests and clients inside, but our volunteers are amazing,” he said. “One good thing about this year is it has forced us to do deliveries.”

Wells may be contacted at mwells@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2275.