November 23 – As a child, Kellen Leef watched her father go to great lengths to help people in need.
“Growing up, my dad was a pastor, and someone would call and say, we had a store in our community, and they’d call my dad and say, ‘There’s someone walking, they’re walking, they’re hungry,’ and Dad would say, ‘Okay, make him a burger. I’ll go pay for it in a minute,'” Leef said. “Many times he would carry us with him and take us… so I grew up in that service.”
Having seen his late father, the Rev. Sterling Morgan, set this example of service, Leef now continues this tradition by using his business to host a free Thanksgiving meal for the community.
This year marks the 8th annual When Pigs Fly Barbeque Free Thanksgiving Dinner. It takes place from noon to 4 pm on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in Fairlea at the Blue Ribbon Center.
Dinner includes smoked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, pumpkin pie, and a variety of desserts.
Anyone unable to attend the event can call 304-249-8124 and request a delivery.
Leef, co-owner of When Pigs Fly Barbeque, said everyone is welcome to stop by for a free Thanksgiving meal.
“I’m trying to reach people who don’t have families, who are lonely, and people who may not have the means or the knowledge to make a Thanksgiving dinner, but anyone is welcome,” she said.
Leef said he initially started the free Thanksgiving dinner event eight years ago when he couldn’t be with his own family on Thanksgiving.
“We started a year when no one in my family was going to be able to be with my parents,” Leef said. “And then I started to think about how there are a lot of people who are lonely and don’t have family on Thanksgiving, and it’s being billed as a big family day, and I didn’t want anyone to be alone.
“So one year we just opened the doors and said, ‘Come and eat,’ and it’s grown from there.”
Leef said that the first year that she and her business partner, Mike Sheridan, hosted the event at their restaurant, nearly 200 people attended.
Although the duo no longer have the physical site for the restaurant, Leef said they have been allowed to use the state fairgrounds for the past few years, allowing them to serve more than 400 people on Thanksgiving.
On Wednesday, Leef said they had dozens of volunteers helping prepare the food for Thanksgiving dinner.
“We have tremendous support from businesses and individuals in our area,” he said. “Greenbrier Ford buys all of our turkeys for us. The fairgrounds give us the space, and we have several companies that do things for us, from printing, to donating food, to giving us extra space in the kitchen. And then we make a wish.” list on our website, and people in the area will go and buy an extra couple pounds of carrots or something like that when they’re grocery shopping and bring it and drop it off.”
Over the years, Leef said he’s seen many of the same people attend, which has created such a family atmosphere.
“We’ve had people come to the first few dinners and now they’re volunteering,” he said.
When Pigs Fly Barbeque has been cooking and selling real barbecue since 2006. It currently focuses on catering and events such as fairs and festivals, as well as concession services for sporting and other events. Call 304-249-8124 for more information on catering or visit their website at pigsflybbq.com.