800 Loudon County families receive free Thanksgiving dinner baskets

HAYLEY HARMON-6 News Anchor/Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) - Hundreds of East Tennessee families will be having Thanksgiving dinner this year, all thanks to the generosity of the Loudon County community.

Donations funded a massive Thanksgiving dinner basket giveaway Saturday in Lenoir City, providing low-income families with everything they need for the holiday dinner that many of them would otherwise not be able to afford.

Danna James of Lenoir City received one of the baskets and she waited patiently in line Saturday morning for her basket.

"I'm getting a Thanksgiving basket blessed to my family," said James. "I'm a single mom on disability and I have four kids. It's really hard. It's really hard to scrimp by."

James is part of one of the 800 families getting a completely free Thanksgiving dinner basket from the Loudon County Good Samaritan Center's annual giveaway.

"It's amazing that there are still good people left in the world that can help," said James.

Donations from the community, totaling more than $16,000, are paying for this year's dinners.

"It gives people a chance to have a meal that maybe they otherwise would not," said Toni Hoffman of the Good Samaritan Center.

The baskets are complete with all the Thanksgiving staples, including either a ham or turkey and all the trimmings, from the vegetables to dessert, purchased at-cost from Walmart.

"We're gonna get to have a real dinner and it makes a difference, it really does," said James.

The Good Samaritan Center started the giveaway in 1999. In their first year, they gave away just 30 baskets.

Hoffman says the amount they're giving away now just shows the need for it in this community.

"We've had people come in this week that have said I've never had to do this before' and they're just in tears," said Hoffman.

Families who received the baskets had to fill out vouchers earlier this month to qualify.

"We have folks that come to us and just say that 'I have nothing. I have nothing to feed my family with,'" said Hoffman.

It may be just one meal, but it's one that goes a long way in showing true holiday spirit.

"It's amazing that God puts people like this here to bless all of us," said James.

The Good Samaritan Center also worked with local churches who helped take baskets to shut-ins or seniors who could not drive to pick up them up.

For more information on the services the Center provides to low-income families all year long, visit their website or call them at 865-986-1777.