Peoria’s South Side Mission still feeds thousands on Thanksgiving under new regulations

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A Thanksgiving tradition, half a century old, on Peoria’s South Side made adjustments this year to serve its community in a safe way.

A typical Thanksgiving at Peoria’s South Side Mission would normally have a packed gymnasium filled with volunteers, families, friends, and food.

However, Craig Williams, executive director of the South Side Mission, said they had to make other arrangements.

“This year is totally different,” Williams said. “We’re outside and we’re just delivering over 2,500 meals to our community.”

This November, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nonprofit to provide a change of scenery and a change of protocol when it came to feeding the community Thanksgiving meals. However, the organization pushed through with the same heart behind its initiatives.

“We decided not to stop but just to go ahead and still continue to deliver in our community,” Williams said. “People’s needs are still there and so we felt like we had to continue the best way we could during COVID.”

He said more than 200 volunteers worked over the past week to prepare and deliver meals and newspapers to those who needed it.

He said there was also an opportunity for people to walk up and pick up their meals from 9 a.m.- 11 a.m. on Thursday.

“We’re not leaving anyone out,” Williams said.

Those in the area like, Richard Butler, who’s been coming to the Mission for years praised the nonprofit’s continued support and dedication.

“It’s a blessing,” Butler said. “There’s not too many that’s still open and that still offers help and that’s still willing to help.”

These sentiments were echoed by volunteers.

“The feeling of thankfulness is definitely still here,” Niccole Maloney, a volunteer, said. “Feeling of family and celebrating and just helping each other.”

Butler said it’s that same feeling that constantly drives him back to the Mission.

“I had to make sure I got over here again for another year because it always gives me that great feeling,” Butler said.

Williams said he hopes next year the Mission can go above and beyond for its 50th year.

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