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Volunteers provide over 1000 free meals for Thanksgiving

The annual Robert D. Keeder Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner continued its tradition for the 32nd year.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hundreds received free meals inside the walls of St. Peters Catholic Church, all in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

A line of volunteers stood at the kitchen inside of St. Peter's Church on Thursday morning, all excited to provide free meals for the day. 

Inside, dozens gave up time on their holiday to spread fellowship and offer up dinner to anyone who wanted. 

 According to coordinator Hal Lominick, they hoped to provide 500 meals in person during the day.  

"We cook 120 turkeys over a six day time frame and that's 2000 pounds of turkey. In addition to that, we have our beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and dressing."

He says there are no questions asked, the doors open to anyone who just needed a meal, or to get out of the cold.

One of the most important tools of the day is the meal take out line. There, over 750 more meals were packaged and brought to low income housing and assisted living facilities. 

Jimmy Murphy came to Thursday's dinner focused on getting a meal. He thanked God for providing a space where he was able to meet and see others. He says even something small like that can be a lifesaver for so many.

"It celebrates the holidays and it brings a lot of people together that's homeless, that's not homeless. It's a blessed day for everyone, " he said. 

Volunteers also got in on the festive spirit. 

Betsy Hines has been volunteering at the church for over a decade. She says it's hard to sit and eat her Thanksgiving meal at home without thinking about the less fortunate.

"It makes you think 'I'm enjoying my meal, but have they had one?" She says, "it makes me feel better to know that at least I saw some of the neediest eat, I know that they've been fed."

Another big part of the day was honoring the event's creator- Robert D. Keeder. Organizers gave him the official namesake of the dinner and presented him a plaque that honors his commitment to the mission. He spoke to the crowd about it's humble beginnings.

"When I came to mass thirty years ago, I walked up to the front of the church. As I was approaching the church, I saw all these people walking the streets of Columbia going nowhere...there's no place in Columbia that's serving Thanksgiving dinners, I said we're gonna have to change that."

Lominick says the church will host a similar event on Christmas day for anyone who wants to come by.

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