Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and that means a team of volunteers is busy preparing for the Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving dinner.

The story of the event’s history is an impressive one that deserves retelling. Jennie Lynn Johnson was working as a teacher for the Salvation Army in the 1970s and discovered that many of the families of the children she was working with were coming up short on food at the end of each month.

So she and her late husband, Billy, started to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for them each year. They would start cooking at their home in October, making dressing and roasting turkeys to freeze until Thanksgiving. In the beginning, they fed between 150 and 200 kids.

Today, the meal feeds about 4,000 people of all ages each year, and Johnson is still involved in coordinating it. She hasn’t had a Thanksgiving meal at home in 40-something years.

“(Billy) said to me once, ‘Honey, you’re going to have to give this up,” Johnson told the Daily Journal in 2015. “They’re going to get the best of you, you worrying so about them. But we’re not put here for ourselves. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

It’s a powerful quote and an important reminder, especially as we approach yet another holiday season.

This year’s meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at the Salvation Army on Carnation Street. The Salvation Army has purchased more than 100 whole turkeys that Jim Beane of Bar-B-Q by Jim will cook for the gathering. The meal also will include cranberry sauce, rolls and dessert. On Thanksgiving morning, volunteers will freshly prepare creamed potatoes and homemade gravy to complete the meal.

Johnson told the Daily Journal’s Ginna Parsons the meal is not just for those in need, but it’s for anyone, especially those who are lonesome. Some people eat in, but most of it is delivery.

Anyone who would like a meal delivered on Thanksgiving can call the Salvation Army at (662) 842-9222 and leave a message if there is no answer.

Meanwhile, the organization is also in need of financial contributions to support the cost of the meal. It costs between $10,000 and $12,000, and the Salvation Army relies strictly on monetary donations. Anyone who wants to help can make a check payable to the Salvation Army and indicate in the memo that the donation is for the Thanksgiving meal. Mail it to 527 Carnation Street, Tupelo, MS, 38804, or drop it by the office.

Meanwhile, anyone who wants to volunteer during the event can just show up on Thursday.

It’s important to be mindful of the less fortunate all year long, but especially during the holidays when many are in need of love and cheer. We encourage anyone who can to help with the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving meal and other similar efforts.

As Johnson said, we’re not put here for ourselves.

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