By Audrey Spencer

Killeen Daily Herald

COPPERAS COVE - More than 300 families received the makings of a Thanksgiving meal at the 17th annual community-wide Thanksgiving Basket Benefit, hosted by The Refuge Corporation.

Between 1 and 4 p.m. Tuesday, more than 50 volunteers assisted about 350 local families with turkeys, canned goods and quick-preparation items to be used for the holiday.

Recipients entered the Copperas Cove Civic Center and were instructed to line up by last name in order to check off their registration to receive a basket.

They then met escorts, who helped them pick up food from the distribution area and transport it to their vehicles.

"The whole idea is to give a sort of red carpet effect," said Constance Smith, volunteer coordinator for The Refuge Corporation. "The escort will pick up everything."

Most escorts were members of the 49th Transportation Battalion, 13th Sustainment Command.

First Lt. Lavina Smith volunteered her time to help with the event last year and came back to help again.

"A lot of the people I escorted today were elderly, and I just hope that when I get to that age, I'll have people that enthused to help me," she said.

Volunteers gathered at the civic center Monday to set up stations and also were at the center early Tuesday to set out food items.

Joseph Solomon, executive director of The Refuge Corporation, said the volunteers and donations from local businesses helped the event run "like clockwork."

"Brother Solomon has a heart for the community," said Constance Smith. "Every church in Copperas Cove is represented in some way or another, be it donations or sending volunteers."

Another volunteer from the 49th Transportation Battalion, Staff Sgt. Tavares Bethel, called volunteering for the benefit a wonderful experience.

One of the goals of the benefit, besides helping families who need a little assistance, is to bring attention to an issue in the community, said Smith.

"The whole thing is to give back to the community and draw attention to the fact that there are many people in the community who need help every day," she said.

"People don't like asking for a handout. It's different when you invite someone to your house for dinner, and that's how we try to make them feel when they come in here."

Contact Audrey Spencer at or (254) 501-7476.

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