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Shirley Mease and her family started the free Thanksgiving dinner for the community in 2009.

A local family continues their tradition of feeding the community for Thanksgiving. 

The free Thanksgiving dinner will take place on Thursday, Nov. 25, noon to 2 p.m. at the Reeds Spring Intermediate School cafeteria, located at 175 Elementary Road in Reeds Spring. 

Shirley Mease and her daughters started preparing, serving and delivering Thanksgiving meals for the Stone County area in 2009. This year they continue this tradition with what they expect will be their biggest year ever. 

“It started in 2009,” Mease said. “And it was my daughter, Crystal. She came to me and said, ‘Mom we spend so much money on Thanksgiving. It is kind of weird but instead can we just do something for the community?’”

Mease, who is a former kitchen director at Reeds Spring School, reached out to the school to see if they could use their kitchens and cafeteria the first year. 

“The school has been so great and are always making sure we have the support we need,” Mease said. 

When Mease and her family first began hosting the dinners, 11 people attended. Last year Mease said they prepared enough food for 500 people and they had to turn people away due to running out of meals.

“I’m going to cook 600 meals this year,” Mease said. “Last year we cooked for 500 and ran out of food. So last year, all we could do was have the drive thru because of the COVID and everything. We couldn’t have it inside the school building. So it was strictly a drive-up. Whoever drove up got food. We ran out of food and it just broke my heart to have to turn people away.” 

Mease said there is never a need for a reservation and there are no requirements to come and enjoy the free meal. She explained she just wants to feed people and she doesn’t care whether they are poor or rich, she just saw a need in the community and had the calling to fill it. 

“Sometimes people have the money but they are alone on Thanksgiving or don’t feel like cooking. We will feed them,” Mease said. “I just don’t want anyone to be alone eating bologna sandwiches on Thanksgiving Day. We have a lot of repeat people. There’s a lot of people that have come back year after year after year, and they come to enjoy the fellowship, they come to enjoy the atmosphere.”

Mease said over the years the community has stepped up and helped her make Thanksgiving happen for the area. 

“The word has gotten out so much in the community that I started getting calls in September. ‘Are you still having Thanksgiving dinner? What can we do to help you with Thanksgiving?’ I have never had to ask for help,” Mease said. “People reach out to me and offer. It is amazing to me that I have never asked.” 

For those who can not or do not wish to attend the event in person, Mease and her slew of volunteers offer meal delivery.

“The very first year I cooked for 100 people and 11 came because it was snowy and cold. We had all this food leftover so I told my daughter, ‘We’ll just pack it up and just deliver.’ She asked where to deliver the meals and I told her ‘Wherever God leads you to deliver, just stop and knock on the door.’ That’s the way our delivery started.

“We started only delivering in Stone County because there’s a lot of need over here. But then it just spread. This year, we have deliveries all the way to Kirbyville, Blue Eye, Crane, Galena, Cape Fair, Kimberling City and all the way to Spokane. We have several deliveries in Branson. As a matter of fact, a lot of the motels that are long stay. We’re delivering a lot of meals to them this year.”

Mease said she feels blessed having so many people helping her and she plans to continue to grow each year. 

“The best part of doing this are the stories you hear and how they can touch your heart,” Mease said. “ We will keep going for as long as we can.”

For more information on how you can help or those interested in having a meal delivered should contact Mease at 417-337-3414. 

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