Bay St. Louis family serves free Thanksgiving lunch in decades-long tradition

Bay St. Louis family serves free Thanksgiving lunch in decades-long tradition

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - More than 30 years ago, the Kelly family’s free Thanksgiving feast started as a restaurant owner wanting to give back to the community.

Since then, it has grown into a popular Thanksgiving Day tradition in Bay St. Louis.

Hundreds came together for one of the city’s most popular traditions.

“We want people to have a sit-down meal where they’re served and just welcomed and feel loved and wanted,” said Julie Massengill of the Kelly family.

People sat down restaurant-style for a free meal at the Our Lady of the Gulf Community Center. Volunteers filled up their plates for guests while making them feel at home.

“This is my sixth year doing this, and it’s a joy and a privilege," said David Nickels.

Taking time to volunteer has become one of his favorite holiday traditions.

“It’s better to give than receive. So it makes you feel better inside when you do this than to sit at home with a big ol’ fat belly going to sleep," he said.

First-time volunteer Caitlin Gilson brought her two daughters along to help out.

“Our church bulletin had it posted, and we said, you know what, we’d love to spend some time being here, helping out, being part of the community," Gilson said.

“We want to keep community spirit and let everybody feel welcomed and have a wonderful day,” Massengill said.

The Kelly family hopes people carry the feeling of being connected well into the new year.

“It’s been incredible, it’s been a gift for us. It really has. The people are amazing,” Gilson said.

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