MICHIGAN, USA — From downtown Grand Rapids to the lakeshore, West Michigan was alive with the holiday spirit Wednesday night as Dégagé Ministries and the Holland Rescue Mission both held their annual Thanksgiving Eve dinners.
It was a special night for Dégagé, which was forced to reduce its meal last year to a carry out only event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This year we're back together for back to full capacity while also being very careful on the COVID regulations. We check everybody. We do the temp check. We screen them. They have to wash their hands and wear masks after they eat," said Bob Kreter, who serves as the marketing manager for Dégagé.
"So we're being very careful about COVID. But we're also loving the opportunity to be together again. I mean, this is our family. This is our family. It's just a blessing."
Longtime sponsor HT Hackney Company picked up the tab for the meal once again, after an especially long year.
"Our company, we distribute to convenience stores and grocery stores. We didn't take any time off during COVID, and we've had to deal with that all along. And we haven't been able to do events like this," said Regional Vice President Bill Hillman.
"It's a great opportunity for us to help serve the community and to make ourselves feel better about what we're doing."
Students from Rosewood Elementary School in Jenison made the decorations for the event.
Meanwhile in Ottawa County, Hope College's DeVos Fieldhouse welcomed just shy of 1,000 guests for the Holland Rescue Mission's Great Thanksgiving Banquet, which has been going on for almost 30 years.
"We truly want individuals who come to this event to feel like they were invited into someone's home as much as you can make the fieldhouse feel like a home," said development director Rachael Neal.
"We have people who attend who can't afford to provide their own Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. Also people who can afford it, but they don't have family to celebrate with and so they're going to be alone. And then we just have community members who say, you know what, we want to do something different."
Care boxes were also available for people at the Great Thanksgiving Banquet to take home.
With the Thanksgiving Eve meals now in the past, the organizations are now turning their focus to Christmas and the rest of the holiday season. Both Holland Rescue Mission and Dégagé have volunteer opportunities listed on their websites.
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