Olive Garden steps up during homelessness awareness week

Pasta and bread sticks are not always on the menu at the Salvation Army, but Saturday, Olive Garden did the cooking and spaghetti was the meal du jour.

“We do about a dozen of these types of events each year,” said Dan Banales, Olive Garden general manager. “We also do school functions and cook for the military out at the fair.”

Salvation Army’s Maj. Marcia Baker said the event was a “huge success” and raised a good deal of money for the organization.

“Money was donated, but it hasn’t been counted yet,” she said.

The call was made to Olive Garden in hopes the company would donate pasta, sauce and bread sticks to the Salvation Army, but the Silverdale-area restaurant went “above and beyond” expectations when they offered to send some of their staff to also cook and serve the meal.

“Olive Garden was fantastic,” Baker said.

Sally Santana, arguably Kitsap County’s biggest advocate for the homeless, attended the event as well and said the atmosphere was “very festive.”

“We had a great turnout,” she said. “The place smelled good. There were lots of kids running around. There were faces we didn’t expect to see, unfamiliar ones along with the regulars.”

Santana also said she was grateful to Olive Garden for its generosity and support and those in attendance were extremely happy with the food.

“Olive Garden served generous spaghetti and bread sticks,” she said. “Everyone just loved it.”

One of the biggest worries for Santana and the entire Salvation Army organization was overcrowding during the lunch rush, but a plan to slowly increment the number of people coming through the doors worked and made the day much easier to handle.

“There was a steady stream of humanity through the doors as soon as they opened at noon,” she added. “Major Baker had been giving out tickets during the week with time broken out into half hours, asking folks to show up then to avoid a rush and crush. It went very smooth.”

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