Linda Lin was excitedly showing off photos of her family to Anita Black — the two women were smiling and laughing inside the Glendale Salvation Army’s gym as they browsed through the images on Lin’s phone.
It was the first time they had ever met.
They struck up a conversation as they were waiting in line for food as part of the local Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday night.
It was the first time Lin had come to one of the organization’s dinners, and she was asking Black about the food being served — turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Lin said she emigrated from China to Vietnam before coming to the United States sometime after the Vietnam War and was a little unfamiliar with the free meal being given away by the Salvation Army.
The conversation eventually shifted from food to Lin’s children as Black wanted to know more about them.
That’s when the phone filled to the brim with family photos came out. Lin’s four children are all adults with children of their own and have scattered across the state.
“That’s the immigrant story,” Black said. “That’s the American dream, not a house in the Palisades but the success of our children.”
Black originally signed up to help pass out food during the dinner but had to back out because of an injured leg. Instead she came to the event to talk with people like Lin.
Lin and Black’s interaction helped contribute to the overall familial tone the dinner had.
Parents were talking to one another as their children played a short distance away, and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” was showing in the background.
The tables were covered in orange butcher paper so people could doodle or write messages on them in crayon.
Glendale Salvation Army Lt. Jennifer Shiflett said there was enough food on hand to help feed up to 400 people.
All of the food was donated, and volunteers spent the better part of a day prepping 20 turkeys.
Shiflett, who runs the Glendale Corps with her husband, Justin, said the dinner was originally held on Thanksgiving Day but was shifted to earlier in the week so it wouldn’t conflict with other organizations that hosted their own holiday meals.
It also allowed the Salvation Army to double the number of people it served.
“The majority of people that we see and serve are homeless or extremely low income, so this helps provide an extra meal for them during the week,” she said.
By the halfway point of the dinner, about 130 people had been served.
Frances Harley said she was fortunate enough to have stumbled onto the event. She didn’t know if she was going to even eat dinner that night and originally came to the Salvation Army for its community pantry, which was closed for the evening.
Being there at the same time as the Thanksgiving meal was a sign from God, she said.
“His spirit brought me here … God was really looking after me and for people who are not as fortunate,” she said.