One Canadian “Thanksgiving,” In November

Thanksgiving does not always equal a day spent with family gathered around a food-filled table in the airline industry. In fact, many SkyWest employees spend Thanksgiving working hard to take care of the thousands of people who are flying around the country to see friends and loved ones. This includes David Miller, a SkyWest pilot based in Denver, Colo.

When David first saw his November schedule, he immediately saw that he would not have Thanksgiving off. However, in light of the holiday season, David emailed several shelters in the Winnipeg area to see if they were in need of volunteers. Siloam Mission answered: “Dear David, it is great you and your crew would like to volunteer over Thanksgiving on your layover. We have a few spaces for you, but please bring all the holiday cheer as Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October :-) Warm Regards, Victoria.” Though the holiday didn’t quite match up, David was excited for the chance to help.

On Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day in the states, David awoke to low clouds, blowing snow and a wind chill of just 1° F. Undeterred, he met up with a fellow SkyWest crewmember and the two walked, as quickly as possible, to Siloam Mission. When they arrived, Victoria gave them a tour of the facilities, including its mini-hospital staffed by doctors, nurses, dentists and even chiropractors; a fully-equipped gym on the top floor; a resource room with computers; an apartment building for transitioning qualified individuals from the streets; a bedroom for emergency family shelter; separate female quarters; and a pile of donated clothes stacked so high, well, you could lose just about anything!

“It didn’t take long to realize how special this shelter is,” said David. “And the thing that really blew me away is their approach to clothing.”

At Siloam Mission, that approach is a clothing “store,” with one-on-one personal assistants to help guests find what they both need and want; all free of charge of course. No one walks out of Siloam with pants too big or shoes too small. With this methodology, Siloam bypasses the hurdle of self-consciousness and enhances the opportunity for an individual to focus on improving their lives in other more important areas.

Three hours after arriving, David and the other volunteers had served more than 350 meals to men, woman and children. David was in charge of placing three or four pickles on each plate. Of course, Corrie, the service leader, occasionally had to step in when he would try to give out a few more.

“We can’t be running out because David likes pickles and thinks everyone should get a fist full!” said Corrie.

The meals were complete with soup, sandwich, pie, bottomless coffee and a small battalion of helpful volunteers filling cups and taking plates. Many “Thank you’s,” and “Mmm, that looks great,” were spoken. The volunteers also had a chance to get to know some of the patrons.

“While waiting in line, an elderly gentleman spoke about his childhood in Russia, another stated he had a grandmother with dishes like those being used,” said David. “One gentleman, who looked about 45 years old, spoke about the apartment he was moving into that week; it would be the first place he ever had of his own.

“Taking a moment to look out over a sea of faces eating a warm meal is gratifying. Looking beyond to the windows and the 1° wind chill brings pause, knowing these folks would be out in the weather in less than an hour. It brings pause and thanks.”

The volunteers ate last and were happily surprised with a special treat from Chris, the head chef. He had prepared a Thanksgiving meal from scratch: handmade stuffing, smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry and a healthy slice of Pecan pie.

While it wasn’t a typical layover, David said it can only be described as “a wonderful experience.”

David’s willingness to serve is just one example of the incredible things SkyWest employees are doing on a daily basis, as they look for ways to help and give back whenever possible.