Dream Center Peoria feeds hundreds Thanksgiving dinner

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Dream Center Peoria celebrated the season of giving with hundreds of hot plates at their annual Thanksgiving Eve Meal event, Wednesday, Nov. 24.

The center is a not-for-profit that provides shelter, housing and services for individuals, families and students living in poverty. Last year, along with other events, Dream Center had to cancel the Thanksgiving dinner due to COVID-19 safety mitigations.

Denise Bailey, the director of development, said they haven’t opened their doors to this large of a crowd in over a year. She said it’s exciting to see everyone come together again.

“Especially with of COVID, being separated and isolated,” Bailey said. “We can bring people together and we can say what we are thankful for, hear what they’re thankful for.”

Bailey said several dozen volunteers had been preparing for the event for the past three days, cooking and baking multiple sides, ham, and almost 300 pounds of turkey. Volunteers produced enough food to feed 350 people.

Carissa Clemens, a resident at the Dream Center, said this dinner was the first Thanksgiving meal since they lost their home.

“We had a house fire a few years back back. Our family home burned down and we lost everything, so this is the first time we’ve actually had a home in five years.”

Clemens has lived at the center with her son since May. She said she’s grateful for what those at the Dream Center do for her family and the community.

“We’re going to enjoy this Thanksgiving, and we’re blessed to have a place that we can actually sit down and call home,” Clemens said.

Bailey said she’s happy to see events like the Thanksgiving Eve Meal return. She said Peoria’s poverty level is more than double the national average, and events like these help give dignity and ignite purpose in the guests and students.

“There are families who aren’t able to purchase a turkey and purchase all the side dishes, and they can come in and enjoy this, and be served, and just sit back and relax,” Bailey said.

Bailey said after a rough year, she and others at the center are extra grateful this Thanksgiving season.

“We took it for granted before COVID, and even though we’re wearing masks and trying to protect as many as possible, we are enjoying at a level that maybe we didn’t before,” Bailey said.

Clemens said the Dream Center has been an important resource and a shoulder to lean in the past six months/

“I hope that everybody can come together and one day eventually give back the way they’re giving to us,” Clemens. “I think that’s the bigger picture, to give back.”

To learn more about Dream Center Peoria and their services, visit their website.

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