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The City Journals

PAL Thanksgiving Project helps needy in South Salt Lake

Dec 02, 2016 01:32PM ● By Brian Shaw

A family gathers around the Thanksgiving table. (Abigail Batchelder)

By Brian Shaw | [email protected]

During the holidays, families gather to share conversation, good food and the warmth of being indoors. But not everyone has the luxury of having good food to eat at Thanksgiving. 

That’s where the Police Athletic League comes in. PAL, along with local teenagers from its program, fan out across the city this time of year, getting tips on who needs help. The organization also got names from an ad it posted in the South Salt Lake Journal as well as names submitted by Promise South Salt Lake. 

For South Salt Lake police officer Jerry Silva, who started with youth corrections in 1995 and became an officer with the city in 1998, this project he oversees with about 25 middle school and high school aged kids is the highlight of his year. 

“As an officer, this is one of those projects that you enjoy doing,” Silva said. In his ninth year of providing Thanksgiving for the needy, the project has grown in his estimation to the point where the food he provides is comparable with that of any fine dining establishment. 

“This is like going to Little America, for example, and having their Thanksgiving brunch. I can’t begin to tell you how good that makes me feel,” Silva added. 

The way the project works is that earlier in the year, Silva and his crew ask for donations from area businesses. This year alone, Fresh Market will donate turkeys—it has donated over 100 in the past three years, according to Silva—along with canned goods. 

Salt Lake Valley GMC, which is in its second year of helping out, will donate hams. And Village Inn will bake and donate all the pies, leaving these needy residents with everything they could possibly want in a Thanksgiving meal.  

The project even included recipes so that these needy residents could properly cook the food provided for them in their meal baskets—which the project delivered in vans on November 22 after all the food was collected at the Salt Lake Culinary  Center Academy on 2233 South 300 East. 

For those in need, added Silva, it’s a real blessing. 

“I talked to one mom who lost her son about six months ago and it really made her day to know we cared about her. That really put a smile on my face, because being an officer isn’t always fun. There’s a lot of stress that goes with the job and I’m just grateful to help those who need it.”