ROGERSVILLE — In the early years of Rogersville’s People Loving People (PLP) free Thanksgiving dinner, organizers were thrilled with the turnout if they got to serve 500 people.
Over the past decade the event has grown substantially.
During the 10th annual event Thursday the PLP exceeded its previous record for Thanksgiving meals served by more than 500 people.
A total of 3,058 meals were served Thursday, 2,668 of which were delivered by volunteers while 390 were served in the cafeteria of Joseph Rogers Primary School in Rogersville where the event took place.
The previous record set in 2012 was 2,527 total meals served.
Overall the PLP served 1,000 pounds of turkey, 600 pounds of ham, 600 pounds of corn, 600 pounds of green beans, 800 pounds of mashed potatoes, 600 pounds of sweet potatoes, 40 gallons of cranberry sauce, 20 gallons of turkey gravy, 15 gallons of ham gravy, 3,000 rolls, and more than 3,000 servings of dressing and desserts.
Event co-organizer Dr. Blaine Jones said the Sullivan Baptist Disaster Relief Kitchen which did the cooking overcame some obstacles in preparing the meals, including the weather and road conditions.
“The Sullivan Baptist men and women faced some pretty rough challenges with the temperatures and the wind chills, and the snow and the ice,” Jones said. “They set up on Tuesday in a pretty cold rain, but they got it all done. Then we got the wrong turkeys.”
Jones added, “We normally get boneless turkey breasts and slice them and cook them that way, but instead we got whole turkeys. We had to saw them in half, cook them, and de-bone them — and it took them a lot longer doing it that way, but they did well.”
Thursday morning Thanksgiving meals were delivered by volunteers throughout Hawkins County, as well as in Kingsport, Bluff City, Johnson City, Greeneville, Bristol, and Morristown. The farthest delivery was in Lebanon, Va., which took two hours.
More than 350 volunteers participated in the event, the majority of whom were from Rogersville and Hawkins County. But, there were also volunteers from as far away as Bethesda, Md., northern Ohio, Asheville, N.C., Sevierville, Knoxville, and the Tri-Cities.
“I had a man and a woman who read about our event online, and they drove here from a town on Lake Erie to serve and work at our Thanksgiving dinner,” Jones said. “They said they had such a good time they were probably going to keep doing it.”
Jones said he was thankful to everyone who worked to make the event a success.
He added, “First and foremost I want to thank God for making it the success it was. I hope and pray that everyone involved in this event was able to receive a blessing for their service to their fellow men and women, and for their service to the Kingdom. I know that those that were served were blessed as well.”