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Mozel Sanders Foundation serves thousands of Thanksgiving meals despite pandemic

A lack of kitchens due to the pandemic caused meant fewer meals distributed this year.

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite the pandemic, the Mozel Sanders Foundation continued its 49-year tradition of serving up warm Thanksgiving meals to those in need again this year.

“It's very different, but different isn't always bad. We're trying to serve as many people as we can,” said longtime volunteer Mike O'Banyel. He has been coming to help for decades.

“I probably got involved in 1976 or 1977, something like that. I'm 64,” O’Banyel said.

It's become a tradition to help with meal preparation and packaging, with one of his sons helping him again this year.

“He's running the kitchen for me. It's always been a family affair. This is Thanksgiving for us, this is what we do,” O’Banyel said.

Boxes were lined up and contained dozens of meals ready to be delivered, and while it looked like a lot, it's down from years past.

“We weren't able to feed as many people as we wanted to. We normally feed 20 to 30,000. Our best guess was 10,000 this year,” said Stephanie Sanders, executive director.

A lack of kitchens, due to the pandemic, caused this year's number to be down.

“We didn't have a place that was large enough to cook all the meals at one time,” Sanders said.

Credit: WTHR
One of the Mozel Sanders Foundation prepared Thanksgiving meals Nov. 26, 2020.

With a number of satellite locations with smaller kitchens, volunteers worked to get out as many meals as possible.

As some families drove by to receive their meal, it was a chance for organizers and volunteers to connect with those they serve – amid the challenges brought on by a pandemic.

“I'm just overjoyed. I'm overwhelmed. I'm happy. I'm elated to know that after 49 years when my father-in-law started this, we're still the family foundation that's pushing on,” Sanders said.

Even though the Thanksgiving dinners are done, the Mozel Sanders Foundation still needs help with other programs. If you would like to donate or learn more, click here.

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