SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A small bait-and-tackle and convenience store in Sevier County is gearing up again for a huge Thanksgiving feast for the community.
The Dam Store on Boat Launch Road is offering turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a lot more, all for free from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – or for however long the food lasts. It’s been a tradition for several years.
Employee and lead cook John Laniefsky said they’re roasting nine turkeys this year.
“One-hundred ninety-two pounds of turkey with back up of another thirty-five pounds,” Laniefsky said. “So, it’s a lot of turkey.”
The turkeys take anywhere from six to six-and-a-half hours to cook. Leniefsky started preparing the birds on Monday, but in reality, they’ve been planning since before Halloween.
Laniefsky said they had to start early knowing the supply chain was an issue this year.
“Getting things ready, buying stuff, making sure that we had turkeys just in case there weren’t any we had some,” he said.
They have a stockroom full of canned yams, gravy, boxed mashed potatoes and more. Laniefsky said the only issue they almost had involved pecan pies.
“Within the last stretch we were able to get them about a week ago. So, that was the only thing we were worried about,” he said.
Crystal Turner, another employee who helps with the meal, said they are projecting to feed more than 200 people on Thanksgiving.
“Banana pudding, pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, celery, carrot sticks, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, turkey gravy, cranberry sauce,” Turner said.
Pretty much anything your grandma would have on the table.
There’s a reason for all the kindness, hard work, and money the employees and owners put in to provide a free Thanksgiving meal to the community.
Turner and Laniefsky said it all started the year one of their fellow co-workers, Dale Jones, lost his wife to cancer and had to raise six kids on his own.
“We really want to do something for Dale, but why don’t we do it for everybody?” Laniefsky said. “And so not only is his family benefiting from it, so is a whole bunch of other people. And it’s just grown.”
The meal has grown so much others have started helping share the love.
“There’s a guy that, actually, ever year comes and delivers for the older couples that can’t get there,” Turner said. “So that’s nice. You just see a lot of community. A lot of togetherness, and that’s, it makes it worth it.”
They do the same on Christmas, but provide even more for the community!
Turner said a customer dresses up as Santa on Christmas Eve and passes out gifts, and they’ll have another Santa stop in on Christmas Day.
On top of that, Laniefsky cooks even more food, like homemade glazed ham.
At the end of the day, all the hard work and preparation is worth it for this group of employees.
“For some of the people who come in, they don’t have nobody, you know. They’re used to being by their self. So, to see the smile it’s all worth while,” Turner said.