dinner_1.jpgMIAMI — For the past 17 years, Albert Cancia has served hundreds of meals to needy families in South Florida on Thanksgiving Day.

As a captain and pastor at The Salvation Army Miami Edison Corps, 361 N.W. 67th St. in Liberty City, it’s part of Cancia’s job. But, for him, serving a warm Thanksgiving lunch or dinner to those who can’t afford to have one is more than just a duty. It’s a blessing.

On Thanksgiving Day, “it is most heartwarming to hear the kids tell you that they didn’t have anything to eat until they came here,” said Cancia, who first joined The Salvation Army in his native Haiti 34 years ago.

This Thanksgiving Day will be no different.

Cancia, his wife Carmelle, who is a Salvation Army captain and also from Haiti, and their fellow Miami-Dade County Salvation Army corps members will serve Thanksgiving meals to needy families at the organization’s Miami Area Command center, 1907 N.W. 38th St., Miami, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

They are expecting around 600 needy families and individuals, Albert Cancia said.

The Salvation Army in Broward and Palm Beach counties will also serve Thanksgiving meals to the needy this Thanksgiving Day.

Corps members with The Salvation Army of Broward County said they are expecting to serve meals to 400 families and individuals at the Salvation Army Community Center, 100 S.W. Ninth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. The organization will serve the meals at two seating times —11 a.m. and noon. Corps members said they plan to wrap up the meal service by 1 p.m.

The Salvation Army of Palm Beach, where Albert Cancia served as captain for 16 years before joining Miami Edison last year, held its annual Thanksgiving feast this Wednesday at its Northwest Community Center, 600 North Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach.

Corps members said they usually provide meals for nearly 200 needy families and individuals. On Thanksgiving Day, Palm Beach corps members will travel around the county in the organization’s mobile cantina offering meals to the homeless.

“People consider The Salvation Army a social service organization. They don’t realize we’re a church first. We’re serving because we’re called to serve,” said Ludas Charles, who has been a corps member at Miami Edison since 1995 and now serves as a youth pastor.

Last Sunday, Charles and the Cancias served lunch to about 60 Salvation Army corps members and congregants after church services at Miami Edison’s worship center.

At the quaint gathering, the Cancias served rice and beans, mac-and-cheese and slices of turkey to friends and fellow Salvation Army corps members, such as Ralph Saint Louis, 10, and his cousin, Avel Fleuridor, 7, who are junior soldiers with the organization.

The boys said they can always count on one thing at The Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving get-togethers.
“We get to eat the fat turkey,” said Ralph, a fourth grader at North Miami Elementary School.

Avel, who was wearing a Salvation Army uniform, just like his cousin, agreed. But it’s not just the food Avel loves.

“I like the music because I love to play instruments,” he said, speaking about The Salvation Army band. “My favorite is the piano. I want to be like Ludas someday.”

he Cancias left Haiti in 1980 and lived in New York for 15 years before moving to Palm Beach County in 1995 to continue their work with The Salvation Army.

They plan on having Thanksgiving dinner with five of their six children — Philip, Tamarah, Alain, Mark, and Jude — on Thanksgiving night. Their eldest daughter, Ruth, will not be able to join them. Like her parents, she is a Salvation Army corps member. She is stationed in Memphis, Tenn., where she will serve Thanksgiving meals to needy families that day too.

“It’s what we’re doing every day,” Albert Cancia said. “Touching one life at a time.”