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Hunger First prepares for Thanksgiving meal, seeks donations

Holly Viers • Nov 13, 2018 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Those who don’t have meal plans on Thanksgiving Day are invited to come together for Hunger First’s annual Thanksgiving meal downtown.

Michael Gillis, executive director of Hunger First, said the goal is to create a family atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed and loved.

“It’ll be your basic, traditional meal, nothing out of the ordinary,” Gillis said, “and a whole lot of love that comes with it.”

What to expect

The meal will be served on Thanksgiving Day from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Model City Event Center, located on the corner of Commerce and East Center streets.

Gillis said guests will enjoy a complete Thanksgiving meal featuring turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables and other staples.

Continuing the tradition

Since the beginning, Gillis said, the Thanksgiving meal has served not only the homeless, but also those with no families to celebrate with. Last year, the event served around 200 people, though Gillis believes serving more isn’t necessarily better.

“I would like for it to be zero,” Gillis said, “because for it to be zero, that would mean that everybody would have a house and everybody would be eating Thanksgiving dinner with their family or somebody that loved them, but that’s just not the case.”

Making connections

Gillis said the Thanksgiving meal wouldn’t be possible without the support of various community partners. When the event was first in the works, Jeremy Jones connected Gillis to Howie Reynolds and his family, who have helped the event become what it is today.

Thanks to his connection with Reynolds, Gillis has used the Outdoorsmen each year to prepare the food for the meal. The last couple of years, Weston Leonard has donated the use of the Model City Event Center to host the meal, Gillis said.

How to help

Gillis said Hunger First is in need of donated food items to serve at the Thanksgiving meal. Donations can be dropped off at Hunger First, located at 829 Myrtle St.

Monetary donations can also be made through Hunger First’s PayPal account, which can be accessed on its Facebook page, or at local First Community Bank locations.

“We’re going to keep this going,” Gillis said, “until there’s no need for it.”

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