-- TURKEY FOR 200 --

Submitted photo

Teresa Neal and Jerry Dowell load up supplies to distribute to homeless people on Thanksgiving Day while serving a meal near the Boot Barn in Lebanon.

Wilson County is coming together to help those less fortunate on Thanksgiving Day, with events old and new set to benefit hundreds.

Frankie and Teresa Neal, co-owners of the Vinyl Store in Lebanon, are aiming to serve approximately 200 meals to homeless people at the cul de sac near Boot Barn, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"This is a first time thing for us," Teresa Neal said. "Frankie has been wanting to do it for several years, and we've always been active in helping with charity events. We got to talking with friends, and everyone got on board."

An estimated 30 volunteers are involved with the project, including Whitt's Barbecue owners Jim and Mary Landers.

"Mr. Neal and I are pretty good friends, and I volunteered to help," Jim Landers said. "We'll be preparing all the food except for the desserts, and we've got turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls and gravy -- pretty much a whole plate."

The women volunteering for the project plan to bake desserts to go with the meals, and four workers are set to prepare food at Whitt's on Thursday morning.

"We also have several coats that have been donated, and we're going to have those available," Teresa Neal said. "There are also gloves, and we're looking to give everyone a pair of new clean socks and a goodie back with things like peanut butter, crackers and toothbrushes."

The Neals hope to learn from the experience so they can continue hosting the event each year and reach more people in the community.

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"In this world right now, we're so divided," Teresa Neal said. "But when people come out Thursday morning they'll see that we can come together as one group. I think that's what we really need more of in this world, and we want people to realize that's still possible."

Market Street Church of Christ will also be hosting its 19th Annual Thanksgiving Day Meal from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, at 502 E. Market St. Community members can dine in, and Lebanon residents may also have meals delivered.

"The way this started was through our youth development training program," church member Felecia Wharton said. "Myself, Michael Neal and Robbie Thompson are over that. We wanted to teach the youth about giving back to the community."

Since then, the meal has grown into a group project for the church that serves over 100 meals per year, although the youth program still heads up the effort.

All the food served is prepared from scratch, and includes traditional Thanksgiving fare like turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans and dinner rolls.

"What really spoke to us with this event was that a lady came in crying and said she didn't know what she would have done that year if we hadn't had this," Wharton said. "Nineteen years later and we're here. It takes a lot of time, patience and love but it's a great feeling."

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