Dr. Blaine Jones from People Loving People gathered 42 volunteers Saturday morning to offer a word of encouragement and a prayer as the team started distributing Thanksgiving food boxes to families who needed help this year.

Through a giant partnership effort, 900 Thanksgiving dinners were made available to families in Hawkins County and 450 to families in Hancock County adding up to a total of 5,400 expected meals this year.

Over the last 15 years People Loving People has become known for preparing and delivering some 4,000 delicious hot Thanksgiving meals on Thanksgiving Day. This PLP event has become one of the best organized Thanksgiving Dinners in the region with more than 300 volunteers helping preparation, serving on site at the Joseph Rogers School and/or delivering meals to the homes of any resident requesting them.

In September, however, Dr. Jones and PLP co-founder Mark DeWitte announced that due to a spike in COVID cases at the time they had decided to cancel the traditional PLP Thanksgiving dinner.

They couldn’t foresee how long the COVID spike would last or how serious it would be, so erring on the side of safety for his 300 volunteers, they decided to cancel their event.

The PLP team were concerned that some of their families were low income and might miss having a good Thanksgiving meal without their help.

Learning that WCQR and Second Harvest Food Bank do a massive regional effort to offer 5,000 boxes to their 8 county service area, Jones and DeWitte contacted WCQR and provided funding to provide food boxes for Hawkins County. They then contacted Sheldon Livesay with Of One Accord Ministry and asked if they would partner together with PLP to organize the distribution.

School Superintendent Matt Hixon and Principal David Kenner, graciously agreed Cherokee High School would be an ideal spot to distribute boxes for 550 families in the lower end of the county and Emergency Services organized the effort at the Church Hill Shopping Center for 350 families in the upper end of the county.

Beth Metz spearheaded recruiting volunteers from the Heritage Lites and Beta Club to load cars while Faith Assembly Church and other individual volunteers offered traffic control. The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department provided traffic control at the busy Rt. 66 entrance to Cherokee High School. Superior Septic Service provided porta-pots.

On behalf of all the PLP leaders, Jones and DeWitte thanked everyone for a great effort this year and expressed their expectation to resume their normal meal preparation and delivery in the fall of 2022.