Nine-year-old Codie Dunlap could hardly contain her enthusiasm while standing in line for more than an hour to get a turkey and a pie from the Salvation Army.
"I think this really helps people with the holidays," said the White City girl. "It gives people a chance to have a really good Thanksgiving."
Her mother, 28-year-old Stacy Hamlin, added, "It won't be so depressing."
Hamlin, Codie and her two sisters joined 964 other families for the biggest turnout for a Thanksgiving food program in the local Salvation Army's history.
The line that stretched for almost a block at the old Lithia Dodge building on Fifth Street underscored the economic hardships many families are enduring this holiday season.
"There was no line last year," Hamlin said.
Her daughter said the food will help her family enjoy the holidays.
"We're really running out of money," Codie said. "This will give us a chance."
Jackie Agee, the Salvation Army's development director, said at least 50 percent of those asking for help this year did so for the first time, many because they recently were unemployed.
Agee said the Salvation Army last year offered families a choice between a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas dinner.
About 800 chose Christmas and 200 families chose Thanksgiving.
Because of the recession, the Salvation Army decided to offer dinner donations for both holidays for all the families who registered.
"It's the most we've ever offered for a Thanksgiving," she said. "We knew it was going to be a tough year for families and we decided to do it this way."
Her organization had a limit of 1,000 meals, but 964 signed up so no one was turned away, said Agee. Families get all the fixings for their holiday dinners, from turkey to potatoes to yams and fruit.
Donations from businesses and individuals, as well as funds from the Salvation Army, paid for the food.
The organization will hand out food and toys for children under 14 at 9 a.m. Dec. 16-17 at the old Lithia Dodge building, 315 Fifth St., Medford.
The two events will assist 3,605 people, of which 1,827 are children.
Debra Fossen, a 35-year-old Shady Cove mother of three, said her husband's hours were cut back at work, making it more difficult on her family, particularly during the holiday season.
The Salvation Army food will make all the difference, she said.
"I've never done this before," said Fossen. "I usually don't like to take advantage of these kinds of things."
Heather Anderson, a 32-year-old Medford mother, said this was her first time receiving donations from the Salvation Army.
"I was thinking, 'Was it worth the wait?' It is," she said. "I thought to myself 'that's a lot of people in need.' "
Wheeling her 18-month-old son, Damien Moredock, in a stroller, Anderson said this will help her enjoy the holiday season a bit more. "Every little bit helps," she said.
Medford resident Jose Ramirez said he got laid off last year as a migrant worker and was a very happy man after loading up his car with a turkey, fruit, sour cream and a large pumpkin pie.
A single parent, the 40-year-old father said the donation from the Salvation Army will make for a very nice Thanksgiving dinner for his four children.
"I know I appreciate it very much," he said.
Two of his girls who accompanied him liked the food, but they didn't like the wait.
"It was so cold,' said his 14-year-old daughter, Danielle.
Ramirez said his unemployment benefits ran out, but he managed to get a job at a McDonald's.
With money still tight, Ramirez and his family usually make do with a large pot of beans, rice and homemade tortillas they make together. "That's saving us quite a bit of money," he said.
Despite his situation, Ramirez said he takes everything in stride.
"You just keep on moving down the road," he said. "You try to keep a good attitude."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail email@example.com.