Volunteers help serve Salvation Army's annual Thanksgiving dinner

Volunteers pitch in setting up and serving the Salvation Army's annual community Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving is certainly a time to reflect and be thankful for all that you have. And for many, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to help those less fortunate.

At the Salvation Army in Ottumwa, Thanksgiving Day is all about giving back.

"We're obviously very appreciative for all the volunteers and help here today," said Captain Oliver Knuth of the Ottumwa Salvation Army. "Can't tell you how many volunteers we have yet, but... there's lots of them, so we're thankful for all of them. I just talked to a lady whose been helping for 11 years now and she's been coming and helping, so people must really enjoy it and we're appreciative. I think the blessing of being able to help others, being thankful for what we have and being able to bless others is a neat opportunity."

For the volunteers themselves, they show up ready and willing to help.

"I've done this for 30 years," said Pam Ward, a volunteer. "The feeling that we're giving back to the community, our family's always been very blessed and it's a way that my children and my husband and I can give back to the community."

Bailee Anderson volunteered for the first time with his mother and brother Thursday.

"Our family's not so great, so we just want to help other families be greater," he said.

Meals are not only served to the community, but delivered throughout town as well.

"I like delivering the meals because I like to carry the stuff and load it up and just see the people happy when we're at their doors," said volunteer Jayden Jones, who was helping Thursday with his entire family.

"There is no better feeling than to bring a meal up to somebody and they are so grateful and you realize how blessed you are," Ward said.

"I just feel that it's important for my children to know that we need to help others now, because there's been times that we need help," Jayden's mother Heather said. "We're very, very blessed to have each other and just want my children to grow up and be that kind of person."

The volunteers delivered over 400 meals Thursday, more than last year, and served around 200 at the Salvation Army.

And now that the Thanksgiving holiday is past, volunteer efforts will now be focused on Christmas.

In Ottumwa, bells started ringing on November 12th for the annual Kettle Bell fundraiser.

Last year, Ottumwa met its overall fundraising goal, but the actual amount of money collected in the kettles were down from previous years. This year's goal is $110,000.

There are seven or eight locations around town where you can donate, and all of the proceeds from the Kettle Bell fundraiser will go towards the Christmas Assistance program, where the Salvation Army will provide food and toys for families in need.

"Last year, we were able to give two toys, a game for the family to enjoy and some sort of stocking stuffer, and then a combination of hats, gloves, scarves, some combination of that," Captain Oliver said. "So all of the funds raised in our kettles goes to that each and every year."

Last year's Christmas program helped 300 families and 525 children in the Ottumwa area.

Captain Knuth said the biggest challenge each year is finding volunteers, so if you would like to sign up to ring a bell, visit