JOPLIN, Mo. — Thanksgiving arrives early for hundreds of families, today (Saturday) in Joplin.

150 volunteers with James River Church in Joplin built and delivered Thanksgiving meal baskets for 250 families in need, as part of the church’s “Giving Season.”

Event organizers say some baskets are going to Dover Hill Elementary, Guiding Light Ministries, Watered Gardens, and the rest are for anyone in the community who signed up — with some extra on hand for those who didn’t.

The basket included all the popular Thanksgiving trimmings, from smoked turkey to corn and stuffing, down to pumpkin pie for dessert.

James River Church Joplin Kids Coordinator, Ashley Wilhite, tells us it’s a privilege to be able to help so many families who are dealing with a lot this time of year.

“Some of the families are so delighted and overjoyed with receiving just the gift for Thanksgiving. A lot of the families that we’ve seen come through can’t afford it this year or things have happened. Your life happens. And so being able to bless them, we’ve had several in tears,” said Ashley Wilhite, James River Church Joplin Campus Kids Coordinator.

Wilhite tells us, through this operation, they’ll be giving away nearly 70,000 pounds of food at all four locations of the church throughout the Ozark region, totaling up to 19,000 meals.