Free Thanksgiving dinner passes lessons to younger generation - - The News for South Mississippi

Free Thanksgiving dinner passes lessons to younger generation


A Hancock County family is passing on lessons on the importance of giving back to the community from one generation to another. For 27 years now, the Kelly family along with their friends have put on a free Thanksgiving dinner in Bay St. Louis. The family tradition keeps growing stronger.

Thanksgiving dinner at the American Legion is where neither the love or the food has ever run out.

"The last time we had the dinner we prepared for 800 people and ended up with 1,000," said organizer Sally Kelly. "We never ran out of food. I don't know how, but we didn't run out of food."

Seventy-nine-year-old Sally Kelly is the matriarch. She said the younger children are encouraged to pitch to instill in them a heart for helping others.

"The little kids help. Under 12 shouldn't be in the kitchen, so we keep them out here at the drink table and at the desert table," Kelly said. "So if they start getting low on the desert table they go up and tell the people, where the other deserts are and bring them back. So they help out and they feel like they're helping."

For some Kelly grandchildren, a community celebration is the only kind of Thanksgiving they've ever known.

Julianna Massengill is Kelly's 24-year-old granddaughter.

"It's different. I guess for some people who have a sit down family dinner with just their family," said Massengill. "We kind of think of everyone as our family. We have a huge community dinner for our whole family to be together. So it means a lot."

The younger generation is thankful for everything their grandmother has taught them.

"She talks a lot about giving and just giving back to the community," Massengill said. "Making sure that you help everybody out. She is a very giving person and a very loving person. This is what we do. This is Thanksgiving for us. I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world."

The Kellys said they are grateful for the support of all the volunteers and to all the merchants who donate food to make the dinner possible.

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