It’s almost time for Elevate Branson’s 13th Annual Love Your Neighbors Thanksgiving Day Dinner at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church Parish Center, located at 203 Vaughn Rd. 

This year, however, there will be no dine-in option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think the biggest difference is that, normally, we have a large sit down meal with volunteers and people coming in, and they get to sit together, hopefully start a relationship,” said Elevate Branson CEO and Executive Director Bryan Stallings. “Where this year, we’re just doing drive-thru. So, people can drive-thru, get a Thanksgiving meal to-go, and then if they live in a motel, instead of us picking them up and bringing them into the dinner, we’re also just delivering the dinners to them. So that’s the biggest difference this year. It’s not going to be near as relational as we like it to be, but we wanted to make sure that people still get to have a Thanksgiving.”

Dinner will be served Nov. 26 from 5 till 7 p.m. or until they run out of food.

To have a meal delivered, call 417-335-9915 on Nov. 26.

“We’re really taking a lot of precautions so that the drive-thru line will be safe,” said Stallings. “People will have masks on and gloves. We want to make sure we can get as many people fed as possible, and so we’re still looking for as many plate sponsors as we can get. We’re a little bit behind on the number that we need. Then I think, just remember, even though we can’t meet in person, that our community still has a lot to be thankful for, and we want to be here to help anybody in need.”

To learn more about becoming a sponsor, visit elevatebranson.org/thanksgiving.

“Again the community has helped step up and sponsor food items,” said Stallings. “So, various things have been donated, like the turkey itself has been donated from Famous Dave’s.

“This year, since we can’t have table sponsors, we’ve asked people that maybe have volunteered in the past and they’re not able to this year because we’re only taking a fraction of the volunteers, but they still want to be involved, to sponsor a plate and those plates then will get a little placard on each one that goes out that says your meal tonight is sponsored by so and so. So, without the community’s help in helping us raise those funds to serve those meals, it wouldn’t be possible.”

With the free Thanksgiving dinner being the big driving force behind the start of the organization previously known as Jesus Was Homeless, Stallings knew that this year it was as important as ever to provide this annual meal for the community.

“Well, it’s kind of how we started the whole organization, and we started with a Thanksgiving meal back in 2008, and from there we started serving meals on a weekly basis to people that lived in some of the area motels,” said Stallings. “So when the pandemic hit this year and we looked at how we probably can’t gather people together, but this is such a core of our foundation that we decided that we still needed to do something for Thanksgiving and help provide a meal just as something that we’ve always done, so that’s how we came up with the drive-thru and the delivery process this year. We wanted to keep everybody safe. Even though we’re in a pandemic, there’s still a lot of things for us to be thankful about.

“I think for me (this event) really just changed my whole perspective on working with people in poverty or people that were on the margins. Often times we tend to look at people in poverty as ‘they don’t want to work’ or ‘they’re in an addiction’ or ‘they’re alcoholics’ or ‘they’re uneducated.’ When I actually got to talk to folks at that first Thanksgiving dinner, what I realized is that they were just like me. They just didn’t have a support system around them, and so if they had an explosion happen in their life, they didn’t have somebody to give them that ride to work or to come alongside them and maybe help them get their groceries while they were dealing with a medical issue. It really just changed my whole life around as far as how I look at others and want to be involved with helping people take next steps and provide that support for them.”

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