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Woman hosts ‘Stranger Thanksgiving’ dinner in Tell City

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 6:09 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2021 at 6:04 PM CST
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TELL CITY, Ind. (WFIE) - A woman in Tell City organized a Thanksgiving dinner to bring out people who are lonely or struggling with their mental health.

At First Baptist Church in Tell City, a special group met to share Thanksgiving dinner.

The group is special because prior to meeting Thursday, many of them had never met. This was the first annual “Thanksgiving Stranger Dinner” put on by Task of Mind, a group run by Valerie Cole.

After Cole lost multiple close friends and family members to suicide, she started hosting events meant to get lonely people or those with mental health struggles out of the house and into a social setting.

“Of course I’m not a professional,” Cole said. “I just do it because I like people, and I like people to feel like they have someone. That’s why I say this is for people who need people, and I can be their people.”

Cole makes a good portion of the food herself, while volunteers bring the rest. They have hosted Christmas dinners for the last three years, and this is their first Thanksgiving event.

They say some people just pop in, take some food and leave, but those who stay benefit from the environment and the company.

Earl and Deb Parker attended the dinner.

“We always enjoy being around people and meeting new people and nobody is a stranger to us,” Earl said.

“We love to get out and mingle and be around everybody and talk to everybody, and then in the evening you’re ready to go home and rest,” Deb said.

Cole says her experiences coping with her own mental health push her to watch out for others.

“Sometimes it’s just about fun and getting out of the house and knowing that there’s other people because when you have mental health issues, you kind of just feel like you’re the only one that has mental health issues,” Cole said. “I always felt alone and now that I do this, I don’t feel so alone. There’s a lot of people out there that want to be seen, and I see them.”

With Thursday’s dinner behind them, Cole and her friends have already started getting ready for Christmas.

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