Port St. Joe gathers for annual Thanksgiving meal

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It was cold outside for Port St. Joe, but inside the Washington High School gymnasium on Sunday, November 20, the atmosphere was warm as neighbors and families gathered to celebrate the upcoming holiday.

Gathered around the stage at the far end of the room shortly after 2 p.m., the group bowed their heads to pray over a sprawling meal that they would share.

“The Lord made a way,” said Koran Rouse, who organizes the free Thanksgiving event every year. 

“At one point in time, I was wondering if people were going to come. I was wondering where the food was going to come from. I was wondering if it was going to work this year. But as you can see, we have more food than what we needed, and everybody’s satisfied, everybody’s happy and everybody’s full. We accomplished everything we set out to do.”

Rouse and his family have been hosting the free Thanksgiving meal in the Washington High School gym since 2018, after the death of his brother, Jonathan Rouse.  

The event is named in his brother’s honor. 

 “He ended up passing away the week before Thanksgiving,” Rouse said. “So we went on and changed the name to his name, just to give, you know, some memories of him. And here we are four years later. It just keeps getting bigger.” 

“It's a blessing for us to be able to do this and have everybody come together.”

Organizers set a goal to serve 300 plates at the event, 50 more than in 2021. 

Rouse said that he has never struggled to find volunteers for the event. The local Boy Scouts troop helped pass out drinks and deserts and several neighbors put together plates for those in line.

Boy Scout Troop 47 was recognized at the event for their help in coordinating the meal.

“They’ve been here every year,” said Rouse.

The event’s organizer also said that many of the dishes at the dinner had been provided by neighbors and coordinated by local organizations and churches. 

As the event wrapped up, several guests left with several meals in hand, taking some to the elderly and those in the community who could not make it to the gymnasium.

Thanksgiving, Jonathan Rouse, Port St. Joe, meal, free meal, community, Washington High School

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