KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Thanksgiving will look different this year for those who depend on the Salvation Army in Kissimmee.
Each year, up to 120 people would fill their plates with turkey, stuffing, mash potatoes, and all the fixings at the Salvation Army’s Union Street location.
But on November 6, Kissimmee Police say Cordearo Lee Mable intentionally set fire to the building.
The fire threw a wrench in the plans for this annual tradition and the Salvation Army’s normal daily operations.
Salvation Army Captain Ken Chapman says the building is a total loss.
“We lost everything. We lost all of our office equipment, $200,000 worth of industrial kitchen equipment, ice machines and brand new washers and dryers, pots and pans,” Chapman said.
In addition to all of that, a fully stocked food pantry worth up to $10,000 was destroyed.
But Chapman says he’s not going to let this hold them back in a season meant for giving and unity.
“A Thanksgiving meal is more than just a meal for that day. It’s a holiday where people want to be with their families, and the people who aren’t with their families need some kind of camaraderie that day,” Chapman said.
On Thanksgiving Day, Chapman says they plan to bus dozens from the Union Street location to get their Thanksgiving meal in Orlando.
Chapman says, with the help of Valencia College and their partners, they plan to serve as many as 20,000 people by the end of this week.
“And so we’re going to do everything we can to keep that going so that the unhoused precariously on house, those who are struggling, will know that at least somebody in this community cares about them,” Chapman said.
They’ll be serving the Thanksgiving meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Salvation Army headquarters in Orlando Thursday.
The families previously signed up for the Salvation Army food pantry in Osceola County will receive a $50 gift card to help with the cost of their Thanksgiving meal.
Chapman says Osceola County is allowing the Salvation Army to use one of their buildings while they come up with a plan for rebuilding. They plan to renovate the former food distribution property on Central Avenue over the next few weeks. Chapman says they hope to move into the building around January. He says the Salvation Army could use the building for as long as two years while they potentially rebuild another location nearby.
Chapman says more plans will be announced at the beginning of the new year.
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