Carol Greene held back tears as she described how thankful she was to be surrounded Thursday by a room full of people during the Joplin Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving dinner.
“Even though I’m homeless, I’m around good people,” said Greene, 51. “You’ve got the good and bad, but I’m thankful for a lot of us to be here. Family means a lot, even though a lot of us don’t have any. This is family in a lot of ways.”
This was Greene’s second Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army, which has been serving holiday meals to the community for more than three decades.
“I come back every year because of the warmth and the acceptance of who I am,” she said. “I’m not being judged for where I’m at.”
Maj. Beckie Stearns, corps officer and pastor, said 50 families and people of all ages volunteered this year, delivering 230 meals and serving another 200 to guests who showed up at 320 E. Eighth St.
Grace Greninger, of Joplin, was a first-time volunteer, accompanied by her daughter, Sophia Akin, 7, who wore a cheerful smile as she waited on guests.
“I like serving people,” Sophia said.
Greninger said they also volunteer as bell ringers every year for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraiser, but they wanted to take it a step further after receiving an email from Stearns asking for help on Thanksgiving.
“I think it’s very important for her to humble herself and understand that we’re very blessed as a family and that we should pass those blessings forward, instead of just keeping it to ourselves,” Greninger said of her daughter.
“We all could have rough times in our lives at any moment, and I hope someone would do it for me,” she said.
First United Methodist
At Joplin's First United Methodist Church, 501 W. Fourth St., a team of 80 volunteers helped serve more than 500 people. It was their 22nd annual Thanksgiving meal for the community.
Brooklynn Isbell, 10, of Joplin, has volunteered at the church on Thanksgiving for three years and said it's a rewarding experience.
"I like knowing that I'm helping people in need, and it reminds me that I'm lucky to have what I have," she said.
Deznik Russell, 6, of Webb City, was volunteering for his first time and he didn't show any signs that he wanted to slow down. He collected trays and served slices of pie.
Michael Burton, of Joplin, said he visits the church on Thanksgiving ever year to get out of the house and to spend time with other people since he lives alone.
"I'm usually by myself, and I like to be around people," he added.
In another Thanksgiving tradition, about 1,400 people participated in the eighth annual Joplin Turkey Trot, undeterred by the rainy, chilly weather. Some powered through the 1-mile fun run or 5-kilometer course wearing tutus, turkey hats and festive costumes.
Addyson Greek, of Joplin, carried her son, Huxley, who was dressed as a turkey. Greek and her mother, Carrie, volunteer and participate in the Turkey Trot every year.
"My mom and I do this every year and now, so does the baby," she said. "He's a year and a half, so he did the race last year when he was 4 months. After we hit mile two, he cried the entire time."
Greek said this was their favorite race in Joplin.
"This is our fourth year, and it's one of the only real traditions that we have," she said.
Tara Norvell, of Colorado Springs, was in town visiting family and said the Joplin race has become a tradition — family members all have special boards to hang up race bibs and medals.
"My parents live here, and we all come back for Thanksgiving where we try to do races together," she said. "This year is my grandmother's 80th birthday, so we're celebrating it with everyone while we're in town. And if we can get a run in, then that's all the better."