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Chicken replaced turkey: Inflation, bird flu impact Mozel Sanders’ Thanksgiving dinner

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 10,000 meals were served Thursday to Indianapolis families in the annual push to make sure no one would go hungry on Thanksgiving.

This year, one Thanksgiving staple was missing from the menu: Chicken replaced turkey.

One by one, the meals were prepped and delivered. Meals were boxed up, put into bags and then into the hands of people who needed an extra hand for Thanksgiving. News 8 was at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, 418 E. 34th St., when a FedEx truck left to deliver more than 200 meals, just a drop in the bucket in the overall number of meals that the Mozel Sanders Foundation provides to Indianapolis on Thanksgiving Day. Members of Iota Phi Theta fraternity packed the meals.

Thursday marked the 51st year for the foundation to serve families on Thanksgiving.

Thursday also was the second time in the history of the event that turkey was not on the menu. Stephanie Sanders of the Mozel Sanders Foundation said, “Well, you know, we didn’t have turkey. Let’s start with that. We didn’t do turkey this year because of the turkey shortage and then the bird flu and the cost was high.”

The Rev. Mozel Sanders, who began the annual Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Day Dinner, died in 1988. His son, the Rev. Roosevelt Sander continued the tradition until his death in 2010. Now, Stephanie Sanders, Mozel Sanders’ daughter-in-law, runs the foundation. She says she found the need was great this year; yet, she felt the pressure to serve everyone.

Stephanie Sanders said, Thursday, “Yes, I did because of inflation, No. 1, but we manage every year the people of faith, Hoosiers, they help us out. It is all donated money and a few grants, that is how we do it every year, but we made it once again.”

Two of the more high-profile volunteers on Thursday were Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat. The two worked side by side toward the same goal of getting plates filled up and people fed. Their volunteer effort is a long-standing tradition that the holders of their respective offices have maintained for nearly 40 years.

When Stephanie Sanders is in a pinch, she has the politicians’ ears. “I can make a phone call. I can only speak for myself. I can call the mayor. I can call the governor, and I can get an answer. It is important to the people to see them working as a team.”

The lion’s share of the work for the dinner is a legion of volunteers who intentionally shun cameras. Their reward is seeing the faces of those they serve.

The phrases that guide the Mozel Sanders organization is simple: Always remember, don’t look down on a man unless you are trying to pick him up.

Stephanie Sanders says she will start planning for next Thanksgiving in January. 

WISH-TV was a partner with the Mozel Sanders Foundation for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.