Cookeville volunteer effort Operation United Hope will host a free Thanksgiving Dinner for veterans, active duty military, and immediate families.
Founder and President Linn Koehler said Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for many veterans and the dinner helps build community. Koehler said after the first dinner last year, many veterans sent thank you cards and asked if she would be hosting another.
“To know that we’re able to provide a meal for our service members is just an amazing thing,” Koehler said. “There are just many of those, they don’t have any family to have it with so being able to provide this to those so that they have someplace to go and have a sense of family and community, it’s a wonderful feeling. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing on Thanksgiving.”
Koehler said only those who have registered with the group can be served, though people can register the day of the dinner. Koehler said the community aspect helps active duty service members and veterans relate to each other in ways civilians cannot.
“I’m a military wife but I have not been in combat, I don’t understand what they’ve been through, I’ll never understand it,” Koehler said. “So, talking to someone else who’s been through it, who’s done the same things as others, it’s a different level.”
Koehler said the dinner almost did not happen this year until the group secured a sponsor at the last minute, CW Security Group.
“We were very thankful to our sponsor who made this possible because we were really worried that we weren’t going to do it this year,” Koehler said. “We just couldn’t secure the funding until we got a sponsor to rent a building because of the high cost of renting everything.”
Koehler said that the dinner is with the overall mission of making sure that no veterans eat alone on Thanksgiving.
The dinner will be held Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church, with festivities set to occur from 2pm to 5pm.