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Couple spends their Thanksgiving with strangers over their own families

This family has served free Thanksgiving meals for 8 years and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

CAMBRIDGE, Illinois — Almost every Thanksgiving since 2014, Lisa and Damian Dekezel have hosted a Turkey meal for their local community in Cambridge.

"We started this community Thanksgiving dinner, really to give back to our community," Lisa said.

Both Lisa and Damian value family and togetherness and say sometimes not everyone has someone to spend the holiday with. 

"We wanna spend time with people who don't have anybody," said Damian. "You know, give them a little family to be with and have Thanksgiving with."

The couple says usually 100 to 150 people come every year, and only the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 stopped them from holding their dinner. This year's turkey meal was served at Cambridge Methodist Church.

But they said they couldn't do it every year without the help of volunteers. Some of them come for the meal and then volunteer after eating, like Cambridge resident Kerri Cameron.

"I think volunteering is very important and you just need to give when you can," Cameron said. She brought along her six-year-old daughter, Mariah, in hopes of teaching her the value of volunteering. 

When asked why she likes coming to church with her mom, Mariah said, "Because you can learn and do great stuff for God.'

Lisa and Damian have eight children and 13 grandchildren themselves, so it's not surprising when someone asks them why they're spending time with strangers on Thanksgiving rather than with their own relatives.

"We love our children, we love to be with them, but they have other families," said Damian. "So, we want to spend time with people who don't have anybody... It's better than sitting home alone."

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