Fewer needy show up for traditional meal - Tucson News Now

Fewer needy show up for traditional meal

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

For the past few years, the lines were long and thousands of people showed up for the annual Salvation Army Christmas dinner.

This year, not so much.

While the organization was prepared to serve about 3,000 meals, it's likely they didn't need that many.

It's not like the food, if not served will go to waste, some families will take food home to have a good hot meal for the next day or two.

Some of it will go to shut ins and people who can't make it to the Tucson Convention Center on Christmas Day.

It will all be served we were told.

It's hard to say why the numbers are smaller this year.

It could be the food banks are doing a better job, the social safety net is supporting more people than ever before or there may be more places to go for a holiday meal.

The annual picnic in Santa Rita Park on 22nd drew about 500 people, the same as in years past.

It was started by Roy Aros and a few friends in 1997.

They pooled some cash and fed a couple dozen homeless on a fairly cold Christmas Day. 

It's still the same family and friends pooling their cash and putting it on, but it's much bigger now.

"There are 200 people already waiting when we show up," Aros says.

And it's not just hamburgers and hotdogs any more either.

"We have about 200 brand new sleeping bags, a lot of jackets, toys for the kids and dog food," he says.

Many homeless have dogs and they appreciate the help.

But there's another entrant offering a helping hand.

Broadway Gourmet Pizza is offering free pizza slice to anyone who walks in the door.

But for anyone bringing in can goods, they get a free whole pizza.

The can goods will be donated to a local food bank.

The owner, Jay Jofee, tried to give away free pizza for traditional dinners in the past but was rebuffed so he decided to do it his way.

"This is his first year, but he'll probably keep going," says Shannon Kelsey, a volunteer helping out on Christmas Day. "He does a lot of wonderful things nobody knows about for the homeless and needy throughout the year."

Jolene Heller arrived with 20 cans of fruits I and vegetable and left with a large cheese pizza.

"At the holiday season it's always best to give what you can," she says. "If I find some place that's collecting cans for a food drive and they're giving away free pizza, it's mutually beneficial."

Some were saying if the Salvation Army is serving fewer people that's probably a good thing although they hesitate and will until they know for sure why.

It's not likely the need had dropped.


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