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Walt Oakley of Oakley's Auto World presents $500 check to Sophie Greenwalt

A program that started in grief, has turned into a celebration of life.

Six years ago Shirley West lost her husband, Dale, around the Thanksgiving holiday.  For three years celebrating the holiday was bittersweet.  She loved the gathering of her family and friends, but being at home reminded her of the loss of her husband.

Three years ago West, the kitchen manager at Reeds Spring Intermediate School, says she heard the Lord's voice tell her that her community needed her help on Thanksgiving.

So West, her daughter Kristal and son-in-law Rick Porter, decided they would take the money they would usually spend on the family gathering and spend it providing a homemade traditional Thanksgiving dinner for people who couldn't afford to do it, or those who would be alone for the holiday.

Kristal Porter says they served about about 30 people the first year.  "Mom wondered if we had heard God's message correctly."  Last year 125 people ate at the event held at Reeds Spring Intermediate School.  "It was then that we realized that we needed to deliver food to people who couldn't get to us, or didn't know about the event," said Porter.

This year they hope to feed 150 people at the event that gets underway at noon on Thanksgiving day at RSIS.

The event was a catalyst for a young woman who also wanted to help her neighbor's.  This will be the second year that Sophia Greenwalt, who is an eighth grader in Reeds Spring, will take part in the event. 

She was so moved by what she saw that she wanted others in her community to feel what it felt like to pay it forward.  Greenwalt secured a $500.00 donation from Oakley Auto World in Branson West this year that is being used to buy turkeys and all the trimmings for the community wide feast.

Porter says any food that is left over from the event is packaged up into meals that will feed a family of four and delivered. People can call 417-270-7437 if they need food delivered, or to let the team know of someone in need. "We have friends and family that show up and we load them down and they go road by road in the Reeds Spring area. God makes it pretty clear where we need to stop. Last year we stopped at one house and the people living there said they had enough, but to please give what we were going to give them to their neighbor."

West's church family at Keystone Assembly of God and the Porter's church family at First Baptist in Kimberling City help as well.  "My mom is a strong woman of faith that wants to spread God's blessings to other people," said Porter.

Note you can reach Porter at 417-270-7437 or Shirley West at 417-272-8250

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