The Kelly Family
For 32 years, one Mississippi family has been focusing on the "giving" part of the Thanksgiving holiday, serving up a free feast.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos courtesy the Kelly family
Good Neighbor - Nov/Dec 2017
After the restaurant closed a couple of years later, the family decided to continuing offering the free holiday lunch. They’ve been staging the event at the American Legion on Green Meadow Road ever since.
Of Sally Kelly’s nine children, the ones who live in South Mississippi help pull the dinner together. Those who live away make donations to support the event. Local merchants and individuals donate food, money and door prizes to round out the event. Everything for the meal is donated.
Two of Sally Kelly’s daughters, Julie Massengill and Nancy Bosarge, usually orchestrate the meal preparation and delivery as well as the music and the cleanup. This year Bosarge is away on work so Massengill is shifting around the tasks to keep the event running smoothly.
Massengill said the family never knows how many people will show up to eat but they’ve never run out of food or been short on helping hands.
Over the years, many individuals and families in Hancock County have made the meal their Thanksgiving tradition. Some volunteers return year after year. “We see a lot of familiar faces,” Massengill said. Others just driving by will come in to eat. “It’s a family community dinner."
Massengill said the meal preparation starts the day before Thanksgiving. “We start preparing the turkey and making other goodies the night before. We get to the hall at 6 a.m.. Everything’s ready by 10 and then the meal deliveries are made. There’s usually a line when we open at 11.”
Diners get special treatment as soon as they come in. “They are greeted by a hostess and seated. A server finds out what they want and they get their food and drink and bring it to the table. They’re treated like family for a sit down meal.” Special touches include linen napkins and table clothes.
This year, as always, the organizers won’t know how many will show up to eat or lend a hand. “We leave it up to God,” Massengill said. “We tell everybody we need volunteers and go with whoever shows up and make it work.”
For more information or to volunteer or donate, contact Julie Massengill at (228) 297-2099.
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