JOPLIN, Mo. — A Thanksgiving tradition—24 years in the making, continued for the Joplin First United Methodist Church as they hosted their annual community Thanksgiving dinner. This year’s event marked a return to a dine-in format — after two years of serving drive-thru meals.

“It was started because we realized that people needed a place to come and have Thanksgiving together. And so that’s really what this is. It’s not a handout plate. It’s a gather-together meal,” said Marshall Hogue, Church member.

The Church’s objective is to create a family atmosphere.

“Being so far away from home I haven’t gone to spend Thanksgiving with my own family since my freshman year. So I mean I get to these kids are like my own and these parents are like some of my like, relatives now. Like I really feel like I’m still at home,” said Riley Laber, MSSU Soccer.

Preparing and serving the meals has been a collaborative effort.

“We have people in the kitchen making food, people making drinks. People brought in all kinds of pies and pretty sure we’re gonna have enough pies left over to take home as well. But there’s a couple of different aspects. You’ve got people here serving in the room, and then we’ve got another room in the back that is helping with takeout orders and delivery orders,” said Justin Maskus, Church member. “Part of our mission is to serve our community. And we want to make sure that we can continue to serve our community and make sure that there’s a reason for us here at 4th and Myers. And so this is just one aspect of this.”

Everyone was excited to be dining inside together this year.

“Now for it to be inside and to get to see the meals actually getting served is going to be I mean, it’s going to be a sight for me. I’m really excited to see it. See who all comes, how many people from the community feeds that we’ve had come in. The families come in, just whoever wants to is honestly welcome here,” said Maskus.