WAVERLY, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s been three months and four days since raging flood waters devastated parts of Humphreys County. Much of Waverly, Tennessee was destroyed and is still in need of repair.
“I’ve never seen this my whole life,” said Michelle McCaleb, who has lived in Humphreys County all her life. “You look now and you see all the debris, so many people who haven’t been able to bring their houses back.”
For that reason, Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning for those who are still recovering or simply thankful to be alive.
“I was actually in the hospital,” said McCaleb. “I had COVID, and so I was in the hospital and I kept getting the dings on my telephone, saying there’s flooding.”
On August 21, McCaleb and hundreds of others in the area were given a harsh reminder of just how fragile life can be. Twenty people were killed that day by flood waters. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, and families were left terrified with nowhere to turn.
“My son was on top of a roof waiting to be rescued,” said McCaleb. “My son, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter…then the phone went dead.
Later, McCaleb found out her house was also destroyed. Two of her three children also lost their homes.
“It was devastating because I was already exhausted and I didn’t feel good, and then to worry about my family on top of that roof. I was just praying,” said McCaleb. “I was crying out to God to please help my family, to please protect my family.”
McCaleb’s family was protected. All of her family members survived the flood despite losing their homes.
“I just started saying, ‘Thank you God for everything!'” McCaleb said while holding back tears.
So, instead of wallowing in depression, McCaleb made a decision – to give back.
“Whenever I got sick and then the flood, I fell into a depression. I don’t know how to describe it. So, for about 18 days I had a big battle. So, I started crying out to God,” said McCaleb. “When I started reading my Bible, I started hearing, ‘Go serve people. Go serve people.'”
McCaleb spent Thanksgiving serving a full course Thanksgiving meal to anyone who wanted it. It’s a concept started by her friend and fellow church member Kathy Klein.
“I really think it came from the Lord,” said Klein. “But, I don’t take credit for it because of everyone of these people here.”
Klein says the idea came to her three years ago and kept her awake at night.
“I said, ‘Lord, if you will let me get some sleep, I will try tomorrow,'” said Klein.
She did. The Community Thanksgiving has been going strong ever since.
“I love to see people giving back and I love to see people coming together,” said Klein. “When you hear about all the crap in the world and then you walk in this place, you can see it and you can feel it, and it’s like man, there is a lot of stuff going on, but there’s good stuff too.”
Last year, the event served more than 300 people during COVID. Any leftovers are given to hospital workers and first responders.