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story.lead_photo.caption The sun sets behind the Holts Summit Civic Center on Thursday as the Holts Summit Soup Kitchen serves Thanksgiving dinner to people. The takeout dinner event saw a steady stream of guests, with some showing up early to get in line early. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / Fulton Sun.

The line formed long before the Holts Summit Soup Kitchen was scheduled to begin distributing Thanksgiving meals late Thursday afternoon.

And because staff at the kitchen were able to get the turkey, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings ready early, they also opened the doors early, said Mary Steck, a soup kitchen coordinator.

Scores of people streamed through the Holts Summit Civic Center, 282 Greenway Drive, to pick up their carry-out meals Thursday. The kitchen provides the holiday meal a week early, because it's closed on Thanksgiving.

In addition to a traditional meal, participants also received fresh fruits and vegetables from the kitchen's pantry and holiday decorations.

The local ALDI grocery store, which donates the fresh foods, also gives the food pantry holiday decorations at the end of the season.

Steck said she's got boxes of Easter decorations from ALDI waiting in her garage to distribute to the kitchen's clients.

In its 13th year providing Thanksgiving meals for the needy, the kitchen has an idea of what to expect, Steck said.

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"If the food is ready, and the line is long, we get started," she said.

Several people took meals for neighbors.

Volunteers estimated they prepared enough food for 200 people, Steck said, adding she probably cooked 20 turkeys for the event. Staff cooked 70 pounds of potatoes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged people who try to feed the community, she said. Staff at the kitchen thought about opening up the dining area for Thanksgiving, but then the pandemic surged in Central Missouri, so they decided they would stick with the plan to hold a carry-out Thanksgiving.

"Our older people really want to come back," Steck said.

Thelma Thomasson was among those picking up food. Thomasson said she has in the past volunteered at the kitchen.

"I like it up here," Thomasson said. "They always cook really good meals. I'm looking forward to eating their cooking."

Joyce Smead has used the pantry in the past, but was a first-time participant in Thanksgiving at the kitchen, she said.

"I'm looking forward to the mashed potatoes," Smead said. "I'm a potatoes person. I can pass by the turkey. I can pass by the pies. Point me to the mashed potatoes."

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