COLORADO SPRINGS — For many people, a pie is the sweet finishing touch to a Thanksgiving meal, and a local man is making sure hundreds of families have a pie on the table this year.
"Four or five years ago, there was a plea for pies like the day before Thanksgiving or a few days before, and I thought, 'you know what? I could solve that problem,'" said Tony Van Beek.
The 78-year-old has been donating pies to The Salvation Army for four years. He wasn't able to donate pies last year because of the pandemic, but this year, he wanted to bring back the tradition.
"What I do is collect money from my friends and anyone else, even if they're not my friends, I'll take their money," said Tony.
Tony matches the money, then goes to a store like Costco to buy the hundreds of pies. This year, he spent nearly $3,000 and donated 300 pies and 60 cans of whipping cream to The Salvation Army.
On Thanksgiving, the organization is feeding nearly 3,500 people. They feed families in need every year, and they're always looking for pie donations from the community to include in that holiday meal. A spokesperson with The Salvation Army says the need from a lot of families will be greater this year compared to last year because of the rising costs of living.
"Given the number of people especially around our country now that are in rough times it really feels good to be able to do this," said Mike Graczyk, one of Tony's friends who helped load and unload pumpkin and apple pies. "It's a great way to give back, especially when you see the smiles on some of the people's faces."
The Salvation Army hopes to collect 500 pies for Thanksgiving meals, and now they're more than half way there thanks to Tony.
"He (Tony) bought me breakfast, and said 'Hey, wanna go for a little ride?' Turns out we had in mind delivering 300 pies," said Mike. "He's really an awesome person and his ability to give is fantastic, and he enjoys it as much as we do."
"God has given me a lot, so I feel like I owe it," said Tony. "It gives me great pleasure, they're always receptive to get the pies, and I just enjoy doing it."
On Thursday, Thanksgiving meals will be served at four locations in El Paso County. They are, The Salvation Army at 908 Yuma St; Woodland Park Church of Nazarena at 750 State Hwy 67 Woodland Park, 80863; Manitou Springs Town Hall at 696 Manitou Ave; and at the RJ Montgomery Homeless Shelter.
Those meals wouldn't be possible without support from the community. If you want to help, you can bring food donations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to The Salvation Army located at 908 Yuma St. in Colorado Springs.
The Red Kettle fundraiser also kicks off next week, which is the largest fundraiser of the year for the organization. They're looking for more volunteers to help ring kettle bells in the community.