OKMULGEE, Okla. – Thanksgiving has become a contemporary holiday that celebrates family, food and fellowship. It is also a time where many reflect back on the year, and what they are thankful for. The Metcalf family is no different. For Terry Bemo-Metcalf, Thanksgiving is not only a time to count your blessings, but also a time to provide blessings for others through the If I Eat, Then We All Eat event.
“Everyone has that grandma that always says, ‘don’t eat in front of people’. My saying is ‘When God blesses you, you try to spread it out to other people’. That’s why me and my dad started this.” Bemo-Metcalf said.
The event hands out free meals to the Okmulgee community during the week of Thanksgiving. Meals are handed out by request, and are served until they run out of food. This year marks the third year the Metcalfs have hosted the event. Although it has been hosted in person during years prior, this year’s event exclusively delivered meals to the community.
Initially the event started out with just Bemo-Metcalf’s family, including his father Terry Metcalf. The first year the event was hosted was 2020, a tumultuous year where large gatherings were discouraged due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. This prompted the Metcalfs to offer meal deliveries.
Three years later, the event has grown. Now the Metcalfs work with local churches like St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and Restore Church. With their help, the event is able to serve the average 250-300 people that request a meal every year. Those who were hard at work preparing meal boxes included Bemo-Metcalf’s aunt Pam Riley, cousin Brittani Riley, and volunteer Mindy Morgan.
Each meal contained turkey, a couple of varying sides and a dessert. Sides are served based on the food the event has available. This includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, and corn. According to Bemo-Metcalf, his favorite Thanksgiving dish is stuffing topped with gravy.
The event’s service is open to everyone in the community, regardless of tribal or socio-economic status. Bemo-Metcalf has served many from many different backgrounds.
“We see everybody honestly,” Bemo-Metcalf said. “It’s not just one race or one age group. I’ve delivered to a house with three kids. I’ve delivered to a house with three adults, it varies. Sometimes we will deliver to a house that has eight members that want eight meals. It doesn’t matter who you are, we’re just trying to feed you.”
Bemo-Metcalf went on to discuss how the needs his team serves look different. Many people may not be able to see family due to a variety of reasons like sickness, or financial setbacks. For some, simply seeing and talking to a friendly face can make a huge difference. According to Bemo-Metcalf, one of the most rewarding aspects is seeing smiling faces as he makes his deliveries.
“I know it’s not a lot, it’s just a meal but to somebody else out in the world it may be something bigger than just a meal to them,” Bemo-Metcalf said.
For those seeking locations serving free Thanksgiving meals or food boxes, they can be found on Feeding America’s website, feedingamerica.org. Donations can also be made on the site.