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HELPING THOSE IN NEED: Southeast Minnesotans work to share Thanksgiving meal, even with less room at the table

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The Diner in Grand Meadow

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Thanksgiving may be a time for togetherness, but this year it looks very different. With many not traveling due to current health guidelines and state restrictions, some people are spending the holiday alone.

Organizations providing meals for the holiday found another way to get food to people, restrictions or not.

"It worked out. It was very different that every other year though," said Maj. Lisa Mueller of the Rochester Salvation Army.

This year the Salvation Army partnered with local restaurant Chez Bojji to serve Thanksgiving dinner to those in need of a home cooked meal. The Rochester Salvation Army prepped food in-house and allowed people to eat there, but did not serve directly out of its downtown building.

"We also wanted to be mindful of the governor's orders and stay away from the restaurant look to keep everyone safe," Mueller said. "We opened up our facility for everybody to eat their carryout meals from Chez Bojji over here with six-foot distance and all that. For many people, carryout is great but they don't have a place to carry it to."

Instead, people lined up at Chez Bojji for to-go meals.

"The chef served over 400 meals just in two short hours," Mueller said.

The organizations ran out much quicker than the three hours they expected to serve.

"He said, 'Next year, we're gonna double it.' He's a great guy," said Mueller about the restaurant's owner. "We had a lot of fun working with Chez Bojji.

Chez Bojji wasn't the only restaurant in southeast Minnesota serving a Thanksgiving meal.

Over in Grand Meadow, the owners of The Diner decided to show thanks to its community.

"This is what we're doing. This is our Thanksgiving," said Dan Copley, co-owner of The Diner. "We started at the beginning of the week getting everything prepped for today."

The restaurant owners decided to help a town that has helped them out during this tough year.

"Catering wise it's not going as well but with community support, takeout has been going very well," said Copley's wife, Sadie.

"We're pretty blessed as a family. When I say family, I mean community," said Dan.

The community, including the mayor, volunteered together to make the meal possible.

"That's one good thing about a small town. In times of crisis or uncertainty like we are now, people reach out to each other and make sure you're okay," Dan said. "If someone needs a helping hand, they definitely help. That's just how it is."

The Rochester Salvation Army also thanks all its volunteers and partners that helped feed people in the Med City this year. Mueller says the organization is seeing a 30 percent increase in the need for its services.

Alex Tejada

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