SCOTT COUNTY, Tenn. — A line of cars stretched out of the parking lot of RaeZack's Grill and Deli in Scott County Thursday afternoon. For the fourth consecutive year, the restaurant offered community members a free Thanksgiving meal.
The restaurant opened at noon. Cars started lining up for the drive-through service as early as 9:30 a.m. The unique part about this meal, is that it's not just for people in need. RaeZack's owners say the meal is for 'anyone and everyone.'
In their first year offering free meals in 2018, they served more than 200 people. In 2021, they served just over 600. Michelle King, the co-owner of RaeZack's, said the bigger the crowd, the better.
"Hopefully 800 people, but we would be happy with a thousand," she said while stirring a large pot of gravy.
The King family, alongside RaeZack's staff and volunteers, prepared gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, bread, green beans and dessert for the guests.
The guests showed up at the restaurant in droves. Many people collected multiple meals to bring back to their families for dinner, as well.
"RaeZack's done it again. There's a lot of cars here," said Robin Carroll.
He was one of the 600 people who came for the free dinner last Thanksgiving.
Many people in the RaeZack's line said the need is greater this year for a free meal than in years past.
"We don't have the money to do Thanksgiving. So this is something that I'm grateful for that they do," said Tandra Dople. She was waiting in the line with her granddaughter. They were collecting six meals to bring back to the other grandchildren.
Dople said inflation is pricing a lot of families, like hers, out of tradition.
"It's gotten so bad, you can't even go to the store and get anything hardly without spending two or three hundred dollars that a lot of people don't have," Dople said.
Inflation is part of the reason the RaeZack's almost contemplated not doing the dinner this year.
"I was actually not going to do it. We were having a hard time getting turkeys ever since COVID," King said.
However, she was able to find a deal on turkeys, and bit by bit, their minds changed about having a free meal for in-house customers, drive-through and pick-up.
Thankfully, the RaeZack's tradition lives on. King intends to keep it that way.
"I want my daughter to do it, or my family and my grandbaby. I want her to do it continuing. I just want it to be every year," King said.
At the end of the day, they served around 900 meals.