HELENWOOD, Tenn. — More than 500 people, who may not have had a Thanksgiving meal otherwise, are going home with a full stomach.
That is thanks to RaeZacks Grill and Deli's third annual free Thanksgiving meal event. The restaurant is off Scott Highway in Helenwood. It is a family-owned country cooking establishment.
One of the co-owners, Michelle King, said the idea to do free Thanksgiving meals for the community came to her around 3 years ago.
"Three years ago, I got out of church and I just decided I was going to do a free dinner. That was like a week before Thanksgiving," King said, laughing. "It's really grown from there."
The first year, with only a week of spreading the word, they had 300 dinner guests. The second year, during the pandemic, they had 400 drive-through guests. This year the restaurant said they expected more than 500 people to either drive through or dine in.
"Anyone and everyone, all-inclusive, whoever wants to eat can eat," King said.
Some of the diners that stop by are in need and said they may not have been able to eat Thanksgiving dinner without the restaurant's help. Ronald York came into the restaurant with his wife.
"I want to commend this restaurant and the people. We were here last year, and they gave us good food, and we appreciate it," York said, "They've helped people more than they'll ever know. Some people really wouldn't have had a meal today, probably, if it hadn't been for RaeZacks."
Another family sang similar praises.
"I just I thank the Lord that they supplied this meal today," they said.
The volunteers are key to making the free meal happen too, said King. There are about a dozen people who made their Thanksgiving plans to help out at RaeZacks.
"Some of them are family, and others are friends that we consider family," King said. "So, it's a big support."
Every last one of the volunteers had a smile on their face.
"It is such a blessing to be able to do this," one volunteer said.
Although RaeZacks is giving so much to their community, King can't help but give thanks too.
"I'm thankful for everyone. I'm just thankful for this restaurant. I'm thankful for my family, my friends. I'm just very thankful," King said.