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Thanksgiving arrives early at 'Mission Possible'

Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Nov 27, 2013 at 2:23 AM

Thanksgiving arrived early at the Nashville Rescue Mission Tuesday as volunteers fried turkeys by the dozen for Tracy Lawrence’s “Mission Possible.”

Wilson County’s Lawrence and several other celebrity volunteers – including singer Danielle Peck, Titans football players and Titans cheerleaders – braved chilly and damp weather for the annual event to help people in need celebrate Thanksgiving.

“When it started eight years ago, we had just a few fryers and a handful of volunteers, just friends of mine from church and a couple of my buddies,” said Lawrence. “I think we cooked 40 turkeys with the propane tanks that people from the church brought to us.”

Volunteers fried 10 times that number Tuesday, and Lawrence said another 100 turkeys would return to Wilson County to be fried and distributed at Brooks House and to other Wilson Countians in need.

“This has kind of got a life of its own now – it’s evolved into its own unique entity,” said Lawrence. “There’s nothing else like it in the country.”

The 400 turkeys fried Tuesday will be served throughout the week along with sides prepared by the mission.

“There will be thousands of people that come through the week,” said Lawrence.

He said the event grew out of his own love for frying turkeys. He would wake up early every Thanksgiving morning to start frying, and he soon realized he could just as easily set up extra pots to fry multiple turkeys at the same time.

“I would take orders from people at the church, elderly people that were afraid to fry and people living on the streets,” said Lawrence. “So I would get up early every Thanksgiving morning, and I’d just cook and take turkeys around. I thought, ‘You know, this would be a great thing to do on a little bigger scale.’”

In the years since, the event has become about more than frying turkeys to Lawrence.

“I’ve made friends with a lot of the people from here at the mission,” said Lawrence. “I’ve had a chance to hear their stories and talk to them. A lot of them have had addiction issues. Some people actually come here that have fallen on financial hardships and just need a helping hand to get back on their feet.”

He said the mission offers a variety of programs such as GED classes and mental health counseling.

“It’s not just about a meal and a cot; it’s the tools that can help people get back on with their lives,” said Lawrence.

While Lawrence has proven to be a longtime friend to the Nashville Rescue Mission, he also brings it home to Wilson County.

“He’s always helping Wilson County,” said Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, who lent his support at Tuesday’s event.

Craighead said some of the proceeds from Lebanon’s Whip Crackin’ Rodeo were donated for the event also.

Liz Reese, executive director of Brooks House in Lebanon, said Lawrence and his wife, Becca, have been longtime friends of Brooks House.

“He’s such a goodhearted person,” said Reese of Lawrence. “I think that’s what’s in his spirit.”

Lawrence, his family and several of their friends will work in conjunction with Reese and the Brooks House residents Wednesday to deliver meals in Wilson County.

“We get sides from Margaritaville, andthey will box everything up in single-family meals with potatoes and macaroni and cheese, beans and a roll,” said Lawrence.

Reese said the group will deliver the meals to the residents at Hillcrest and to people living week-to-week at the Uptown Motel.

“I’m just grateful that even though he does that at the Nashville Rescue Mission, they come back and give back at home,” said Reese.

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