ROGERSVILLE—Autumn leaves are falling which means it’s almost time for turkey and the trimmings. With almost 3,000 home cooked meals served in Rogersville last year, it’s also time to start planning the 13th Annual People Loving People (PLP) Thanksgiving Dinner.

People Loving People is a part of Four Square, Inc., a non-profit organization begun by Dr. Blaine Jones and Mark DeWitte in Rogersville.

Each year, groups of volunteers prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing and gravy, green beans, corn, rolls, cranberry sauce, and dessert keeping the idea in mind that no one should have to spend Thanksgiving alone.

This year, the meal will be prepared and served at the Joseph Rogers Primary School in Rogersville, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., under direction of Russ Williamson. Volunteer teams will handle preparation, primarily the Sullivan Baptist Disaster Relief Kitchen directed by Jim Ramey.

Preparation begins on Tuesday and ends on Friday of Thanksgiving week.

In addition to a small army of volunteers, the massive effort has for the last five years also relied on the fundraising efforts of a local family, the Sullivan’s, who each year would host a barbecue dinner and auction prior to the event.

“Due to illness, the Sullivan Family was unable to host the dinner and auction for us this year. The funds they were able to raise were in the thousands of dollars and we will not be receiving that this year,” Jones said. “It will be imperative for us to raise the funds through the community.”

The dinner relies solely on contributions from individuals, families, businesses, companies and any other sources to fund the event.

DeWitte added, “Unlike some of our other projects, we only have a short amount of time to raise the funds—less than two months actually.” So, PLP is doubling efforts to get the word out ahead of the mid-November rush.

“We have consistently fed more people over the years…and a big concern again this year is how the cost of food has continued to increase,” Jones added. “We need anyone and everyone to step forward and make a contribution to help us prepare for our 2016 dinner as soon as possible. We need all the financial support we can get so we can cover the costs.

Volunteers Needed

In addition to monetary assistance, volunteers are also needed to work in all areas of the event. The first organizational meeting was held on Oct. 27 and additional meetings are planned for Thurs., Nov. 10 and 17, at 6 p.m. in the Wellmont Hawkins County Memorial Hospital Cafeteria, as needed. Meeting updates can be found at www.foursquareinc.org and on Facebook at “People Loving People Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“We specifically need volunteers at the end of the day to help us clean the kitchen and cafeteria area,” Jones said. “We would greatly welcome a church or civic group stepping up and taking this chore over for us. We will need a lot of folks to help deliver the meals; serve in the dining hall and numerous other jobs. We will put you to work and you will be blessed.”

During the 2015 dinner, Jones said more than 400 people in various jobs were utilized.

“The annual Thanksgiving dinner is a great way for students and adults to earn community service hours for Beta Club, ROTC, or any other organization that requires accumulation of community service points,” Jones said. “It’s an easy and fun way for anyone who needs to garner community service work and get credit for it.”

Those who are interested in earning points should their sponsors to call Jones at (423) 272-3150 for more information or signup sheets.

“Most all of the local schools’ Beta Clubs participate in our event so their youth can get community service points,” he said. “Anyone who would like to get their club or organization involved can give me a call and we will be glad to try and work something out with them.”

Food Preparation

Another opportunity to help out in this event is dessert preparation, as well as cornbread, biscuits, and white bread a few days, needed for the dressing.

“Anyone who would like to help with this is asked to bring their items to Joseph Rogers School on Wed., Nov. 23,” Jones added. “Last year we were somewhat short on the desserts and the cornbread and biscuits for our dressing. We would love to hear from a church or civic group that would like to pitch in and help with this as well.”

The dinner will be served to anyone who needs it. Guests should come to the Joseph Rogers Primary School Cafeteria to be served between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

For more information on how to volunteer or to assist with food preparation, call Cary Lewis Barton at (423) 345-3743.

For Those Who Cannot Attend

“We give God all the Glory for this wonderful day and we want everyone who needs a meal or needs some company to join us. No one needs to be alone or not have a meal on this special holiday,” Jones continued.

He added that meals can be delivered to those who cannot attend, and transportation can be arranged for those who can attend, but have no means to get to the school. Meals have been delivered throughout upper East Tennessee and are not limited to Hawkins County. Plans are to distribute flyers throughout all Hawkins County schools so children and family can sign up through school.

Individuals who are interested in attending the meal, receiving a delivered meal, or arranging transportation to the meal, can call (423) 293-3595 and leave a detailed message for organizers to follow up on. Jones said the line is currently available to take calls.

Other traditional Thanksgiving activities planned for the day include a big screen TV for football games; Christmas carolers (if there are volunteers), children’s activities and more.

For more information visit www.foursquareinc.org. Click on the Thanksgiving Dinner link to see other links with more detailed information, downloadable flyers, forms and much more. Announcements and other information will also be placed on the People Loving People Thanksgiving Dinner Facebook page.

Where to Send Money

Financial donations may be sent to Four Square, Inc., c/o People Loving People Thanksgiving Dinner, P.O. Box 35, Rogersville, TN 37857. All money is used strictly to purchase the food for the dinner. Four Square, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and receipt for donations can be made if requested.

Joel Spears is an award-winning community journalist, specializing in features with a background in public relations. His work has received numerous state and local honors from the TN Press Association and Society of Professional Journalists.