As a child, Kellen Leef watched her father go out of his way 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 would call over to my dad and say, ‘There’s somebody walking through, he’s walking, he’s hungry,’ and Dad would say, ‘OK, make him a hamburger. I’ll be over to pay for it in a minute’,” Leef said. “A lot of times he would load us up with him and take us ... so I grew up in that service.”

Having watched her late father, Rev. Sterling Morgan, set this example of service, Leef now carries on this tradition by using her business to host a free Thanksgiving meal for the community.

This year marks When Pigs Fly Barbeque’s eighth annual Day of Giving Back, Free Thanksgiving Dinner. It takes place from noon to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24, at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in Fairlea in the Blue Ribbon Center.

The dinner includes smoked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, pumpkin pie and an assortment of desserts.

Anyone who is not able to make it to the event can call 304-249-8124 and request a delivery.

Leef, the co-owner of When Pigs Fly Barbeque, said anyone and everyone is welcome to stop by for a free Thanksgiving meal.

“I’m trying to reach people who don’t have family, they’re alone and the people who may not have the means or the know-how to make a Thanksgiving dinner, but anyone is welcome,” she said.

Leef said she initially started the free Thanksgiving dinner event eight years ago when she was unable to be with her own family on Thanksgiving.

“We started it one year when none of my family was going to be able to be with my parents,” Leef said. “And then I started thinking about, there are a lot of people who are alone who don’t have family on Thanksgiving, and it’s billed as such a big family day, and I didn’t want anybody to be alone.

“So one year we just opened the doors and said, ‘Come and eat,’ and it’s grown from there.”

Leef said the first year she and her business partner, Mike Sheridan, hosted the event at their restaurant, nearly 200 people attended.

Although the duo no longer has the physical restaurant site, Leef said they have been allowed to use the state fairgrounds for the past few years, which has allowed them to serve more than 400 people on Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, Leef said they had dozens of volunteers helping prep the food for the Thanksgiving dinner.

“We have tremendous support from businesses and individuals in our area,” she said. “Greenbrier Ford buys all of our turkeys for us. The fairgrounds gives us the space and we have several businesses do things for us, from the printing, to donating the food, to giving us extra kitchen space. and then we put out a wish list on our website, and individuals from the area they’ll go and buy a couple extra pounds of carrots or something when they’re grocery shopping and bring them and drop them off.”

Over the years, Leef said she has seen many of the same people attend, which has created such a family environment.

“We’ve had people who came to the first couple of dinners and now they volunteer,” she said.

When Pigs Fly Barbeque has been cooking and selling real pit barbecue since 2006. It currently focuses on catering and events such as fairs and festivals as well as concessionaire services for sporting and other events. Call 304-249-8124 for more information on catering or visit their website at pigsflybbq.com.

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