KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Grace Baptist Church held its annual "Feeding the 5,000" event for the first time off campus. Thousands of people stood in line at Fulton High school to get a free Thanksgiving meal.
Most recent data shows one out of 10 struggles with food insecurity in Knox County, according to Feeding America. The organization said inflation is making things even harder this holiday season.
"We heard about this on Facebook," Alicia Willis said. "That they're giving away free turkey and a meal."
Indeed, the organizations had a full dinner meal for Thanksgiving that could feed five to eight people. Willis said she loves spending Thanksgiving with friends and family, but this year was tough.
"Being a single mother, it's been very hard, trying to take care of my little girl," she said.
Her little girl was born at 34 weeks and was only three pounds, this was the struggle that set Willis' life back.
“My family has been there trying to support me with everything," she said. "But I've been, I went through homeless, I lost my home when I went into the hospital, to have my daughter.”
Senior Pastor of Grace Baptist Church Bobby Lewis said their biggest challenge was finding 1,000 turkeys.
“Thankfully, a grocer worked with this and shipped them in from out of town," Lewis said. "We had a frozen truck and people up at like 5 a.m. this morning, and they begin packing and working.”
A Grace Baptist Church volunteer Joey Ogle was there at 8:30 a.m. and said people kept just coming and coming.
"I hope people leave here with today with the knowledge that whatever they're going through in life, there's always people out there that are willing to help no matter where you are,” Ogle said.
The most important thing the pastor wants people to know is that they're not alone.
“Right now, we know we're right here, maybe on the bubble of inflation," Lewis said. "We want people to know that they're not forgotten that even though it's tough, and even though you know, we have challenges, we can get through this together.”
It took a small army to get it all ready. Willis said she's grateful for all of this. Despite her struggles, she said her faith keeps her going.
"We still wake up every morning being happy because we know that God is here and He loves us," Willis said.