Mark DeWitte, Blaine Jones

Mark DeWitte and Dr. Blaine Jones

Turkeys expecting to be pardoned after Rogersville’s annual People Loving People free Thanksgiving dinner was canceled may be disappointed to find out the event will move forward this year after all, albeit in a different format.

The People Loving People (PLP) organization in Rogersville, which normally runs the Thanksgiving Dinner for the needy, announced last month the cancelation of this year’s annual free Thanksgiving dinner due to concerns over the COVID pandemic.

Not wanting to completely leave the underserved empty handed on that day, PLP is now joining several partners to provide 600 Thanksgiving food boxes to deserving applicants.

Each box is expected to feed at least four people, which will mean up to 3,600 individuals may be served — approximately the same number served during the traditional PLP Thanksgiving dinner event.

Among the groups helping PLP provide these boxes are Americans Helping Americans organization, Of One Accord ministry, Second Harvest Food Bank, and WCQR Radio.

The annual PLP free Thanksgiving dinner was founded 17 years ago by Dr. Blaine Jones, Mark DeWitte, and several friends who didn’t want to see anyone alone without a good meal on Thanksgiving Day. But, with the pandemic spriking again last month there were several concerns about moving forward with the traditional dinner, inlcuding the fact that volunteers would be hard to come by.

“Mark and I decided since we were not going to be able to cook and provide the meal we normally do this year, that we would look around for other possible opportunities to do something,” Jones said. “WCQR works with Second Harvest Food Bank to raise funds for Thanksgiving Food Boxes, so we contacted WCQR and made arrangements to donate funds for 600 boxes from our nonprofit People Loving People organization and designate the 600 boxes for Hawkins County. “Our local food pantry, Of One Accord ministries under the direction of Sheldon Livesay, works with Second Harvest Food Bank and they were able to arrange the pickup and distribution of the food boxes for us.”

In addition to the PLP Thanksgiving boxes, Of One Accord has acquired 300 food boxes from Americans Helping Americans, so there will be at least 900 Thanksgiving food boxes available.

“We felt really bad not being able to do the usual Thanksgiving meal in Rogersville along with the Sullivan County Baptist Association Disaster Relief Kitchen,” DeWitte said. “So, we started thinking of other ways we could help folks out. Providing 900 or more boxes of food to deserving families will feed as many, if not more people than we normally feed” DeWitte continued.

Of One Accord will handle the applications for the food and then later the distribution of the food boxes.

Ministry director Shedon Livesay told the Review there are no economic requirements to apply for a Thanksgiving box, but he hopes only people who really need one will apply due to the limited number available.

Applications will be taken on a first come first served basis in Rogersville at the Shepherd Center in downtown Rogersville beginning Friday, Oct. 15, and continuing Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Applications will be taken Mondays, Thursday and Fridays beginning on Friday, Oct. 15 at Emergency Services in Church Hill located at 401 Richmond Street in the Church Hill Shopping Center.

Applications will be numbered so a count can be maintained at all sites and so the total number of boxes are not over-promised. One box per family will be the limit as each box is anticipated to feed four people.

Distributions will take place on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. at the Emergency Services office at 401 Richmond Street at the Church Hill Shopping Center; and 10 a.m. at Cherokee High School.

“We are just excited we were able to come up with some way to get some deserving families fed over the Thanksgiving holiday,” said DeWitte.

“Our hopes and prayers are we will be back to cooking our usual meal in 2022,” Jones added. “Boxes are expected to go fast, so please make plans to get signed up beginning Oct. 15th at an application site near you.”