While many across Colorado Springs spent their Thanksgiving day eating with friends and family, some chose to spend their day giving back to the community.
One of those people is Alycia Erickson, a pastor for the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Church in Colorado Springs.
Normally on Thanksgiving, the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q hosts a Friendsgiving event for those who may not have a family to spend the holiday with. However, after the weekend’s mass shooting, Club Q is unable to host the event.
Erickson and the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Church, a church which Erickson said is made up of primarily 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 community, and be family together in a safe place,” Erickson said. “Our space has always been a safe and affirming place for people all across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations.”
Erickson stated that it was important to make sure the Friendsgiving event was able to take place because often, LGBTQ+ individuals may not have family they’re comfortable spending the holiday with.
“Many people in the queer community have difficult relationships with their family members,” Erickson said. “Being able to be in a space where you can walk in the door and be who you are without any looks, without any judgment, that is an immense gift for anyone. We wanted to make sure we could provide that for people.”
Another group that spent their Thanksgiving giving back were volunteers with the Salvation Army.
Hundreds of volunteers gathered on 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 spending their 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 that on Thanksgiving.
“What I see from a lot of people here is that they are alone on Thanksgiving,” Robin Czyz, a Salvation Army volunteer, said. “So it’s somewhere to come to be apart of a community, to talk to others and to have a nice meal.”
“We feed people 365 days a year, but Thanksgiving isn’t about a meal,” said Capt. Doug Hanson, the Salvation Army’s El Paso County coordinator. “It’s about family, a party and about belonging in a community.”
Hanson said that over 200 people will volunteer at the four Salvation Army locations in El Paso and Teller counties, and that they expected to give out thousands of meals Thursday afternoon.
Hanson said that all of the food being provided on Thanksgiving was cooked in Fort Carson, and that 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 Thanksgivingwith the Salvation Army, something she said has become an important part of her life over the years.
“It fills me with such gratitude,” Czyz said. “I’m so grateful to be able to do this, I’m so grateful to be apart of this community.”
Eric Yanes is partaking in his first Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal program, which is something he said wanted to do to give back to an organization that 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 homeless and living out of his car, to having an apartment and a full-time job.
Community is a word heard often when standing within the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving meal, and something that means a lot to those who work with the organization.
“They’re just wonderful people,” Czyz said. “They’re giving and loving … 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 wouldn’t be his last.
“First of a lot more years, a lot more,” Yanes said.
Community, in light of what happened at Club Q over the weekend where five people lost their lives and 17 more were injured when a person entered 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 this.”
Erickson said she expects around 250 people to attend the church’s Friendsgiving event Thursday night.
Hanson said he expected over 2,500 people would be attending the lunch event Thursday afternoon, and that between pick-up meals, deliveries and in-person guests, the Colorado Springs Salvation Army alone would give out over 3,000 total meals.
“To serve others on a holiday is what it’s all about, right?” Czyz said.