While many in Colorado Springs spent Thanksgiving eating with friends and family, some chose to spend the day giving back to the community.
One such person is Alycia Erickson, pastor of Pikes Peak Metropolitan Church in Colorado Springs.
Typically on Thanksgiving, LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q hosts a Friendsgiving event for those who may not have family to spend the holiday with. However, after the mass shooting over the weekend, Club Q is unable to host the event.
Erickson and the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Church, a church that Erickson says is primarily made up of members of the LGBTQ+ community, decided to step up to host the Friendsgiving event.
“We wanted to make sure that people could come together and be a community, and be a family in a safe place,” Erickson said. “Our space has always been a safe and affirming place for people across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations.”
Erickson said it was important to make sure the Friendsgiving event could take place because often, LGBTQ+ people may not have family they feel comfortable spending the holiday with.
“A lot of people in the queer community have difficult relationships with their family members,” Erickson said. “To be able to be in a space where you can walk in the door and be who you are without any stares, without any judgment, that’s a huge gift for anyone. We wanted to make sure we could offer that to people.”
Another group that passed on their Thanksgiving donation were Salvation Army volunteers.
Hundreds of volunteers gathered Thanksgiving afternoon at four different Salvation Army locations in El Paso and Teller counties to give back by providing thousands of free meals to those in need.
For those who spend the holiday afternoon volunteering with the Salvation Army, they said they do so because they feel it’s important to give back and provide a sense of community and family to those who may not have it on Action Day of thanks
“What I see from a lot of people here is that they’re alone on Thanksgiving,” said Robin Czyz, a Salvation Army volunteer. “So it’s a place to come to be part of a community, talk to others and have a good meal.”
“We feed people 365 days a year, but Thanksgiving is not about a meal,” said Capt. Doug Hanson, El Paso County coordinator for the Army salvation “It’s about family, a party and belonging to a community.”
Hanson said more than 200 people will be volunteering at the Salvation Army’s four locations in El Paso and Teller counties, and they expected to distribute thousands of meals by Thursday afternoon.
Hanson said all of the food provided on Thanksgiving Day was cooked at Fort Carson and all of the turkeys were provided by the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without them,” Hanson said.
Czyz is a volunteer participating in her seventh Thanksgiving with the Salvation Army, which she said has become an important part of her life over the years.
“I am filled with so much gratitude,” Czyz said. “I’m so grateful to be able to do this, I’m so grateful to be a part of this community.”
Eric Yanes is participating in his first Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal drive, something he said he wanted to do to give back to an organization that has helped him so much over the years.
“This program, believe it or not, changed my life,” Yanes said of the Salvation Army’s veteran services program. “If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Yanes talked about how the veteran’s program with the Salvation Army helped him go from being homeless and living out of his car to having an apartment and a full-time job.
Community is a word heard often when inside the Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner, and something that means a lot to those who work with the organization.
“They’re wonderful people,” Czyz said. “They give and they love… I don’t know how else to explain it.”
For Yanes, while it may be his first experience volunteering with the Salvation Army, he said it definitely won’t be his last.
“First, many more years, many more,” Yanes said.
Community, in light of what happened at Club Q over the weekend, where five people lost their lives and 17 others were injured when a man walked into the nightclub with a gun, is more important now than ever. , according to Erickson.
“These are my people, they’re my family too,” Erickson said. “There is nothing holier that I can think of that I could be doing than that.”
Erickson said he expects about 250 people to attend the church’s Friendsgiving event Thursday night.
Hanson said he expected more than 2,500 people to attend the luncheon Thursday afternoon, and that between meal pickups, deliveries and in-person guests, the Salvation Army of Colorado Springs alone would distribute more than 3,000 meals in total.
“Serving others on a holiday is what it’s all about, right?” Czyz said.