Convoy of Hope served its annual free Thanksgiving community meal Thursday at Bethel Life Center. 

The non-profit was expecting around 800 guests. Over 200 volunteers helped welcome the crowd, serve food and play with kids who showed up. 

“Yes, we could have done it at home with our family and stuff like that, but we just brought our family here to be a part of the community,” Dawnrenee Tucker, who brought her daughter to Thanksgiving, said. 

The idea behind the event is to give people a place to celebrate if they are in need or do not have family nearby. Organizers were expecting more people this year than in years past. 

“The economy obviously still has an impact,” Cheri Lankford, Convoy of Hope Thanksgiving Director said. “We also doubled the amount of homeless meals that we're doing this year.”

Guests received a full Thanksgiving meal including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and dessert. Amanda Pitzeram and her family come every year. 

“It shows the kids, you know, the community really does care about them,” Pitzeram said. 

Elodie Casimir volunteered at Thanksgiving for the first time this year. She served coffee and said she enjoyed talking with volunteers and guests. 

“Right now in the world, we have this lack of community,” Casimir said. “We have this lack of, you know, coming together for a great thing, for a great cause.”

Guests said, on this Thanksgiving, they were thankful for Convoy of Hope for making them feel like family. 

“It definitely talks about the love that's here,” Tucker said. “You know what I'm saying? The welcoming and the friendly faces. You just…it's contagious, I believe.” 

Organizers said Convoy of Hope will donate any leftover food to local nonprofits in immediate need this holiday season. 

“We are blessing the community as a whole, and it really is such a special thing,” Lankford said.