Groups across Mid-Missouri served hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to give back to the community.
In Jefferson City on Thursday, hundreds gathered at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for their feast and fellowship event. Organizers expected around 850 people to come through, but within the first hour, the number estimate changed to 900.
Cindy Schnieders founded the annual dinner with her husband, Mike, 14 years ago.
“Thanksgiving is so special to me… I just hate the idea of people sitting home alone,” Cindy said. “Or they didn't have somebody to eat with, didn't have the means, or maybe they're just a single person and it's ridiculous to make a whole Turkey.
"This way they can come join us, be part of the family, or we can bring it to them, whichever works.”
The dinners in Jefferson City weren’t the only Thanksgiving meals being offered in Mid-Missouri. Powerhouse Community Development Center’s annual Thanksgiving hot meals in Columbia served food to more than 1,000 people.
Visitors included Lindsay Payne and 9-year-old Raegan Clasby. The pair said they chose to come to the dinner since they didn’t have much family close by and it was too costly to travel. The lack of dishes was also a plus.
“It also gives a positive point that not everybody is just in it for themselves,” Payne said. “We give back so others can feel warm and welcome and togetherness. Because I think we lost that, especially over COVID.”
“I would definitely say it's nice to meet new people and make new friends,” she added.
Almeta Crayton started the annual tradition 25 years ago. Now, the event continues to honor her with the motto "everybody eats."
“One man came in today and he has lost five of his last siblings in the last year,” Charles Stephenson, the co-founder and CEO of Powerhouse Community Development, said. “He was just ecstatic and in tears. He had a place to go and come together. It's bringing people of all walks alive together. And I think that's what Ms. Almeta meant to do, everybody eats.”
During the event, Stephenson made his way around the tables, checking in and asking how the food was. The sourdough got a "chef’s kiss" from Payne.