For one day each year at one Glen Rose business comes to a halt and charity takes over.

Thanksgiving Day at Hammond’s B-B-Q has become a tradition for many in the region as owners Larry and Judy Higgins open their doors to provide a meal of turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, vegetables and desserts and do not ask for anything in return.

But, what they get in return from a grateful community is not pocketed by the business. Proceeds from the meal, which is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., are donated to the Somervell County Food Bank and the Somervell County Cancer Support Group to help them achieve their goals.

The event has grown each year, and last week nearly 979 meals were served and $8,000 was donated to the two groups. In 2013, 676 meals were dished out and $7,000 was donated.

“It grows,” owner Larry Higgins said. “More people get involved. Not necessarily everyone that comes is looking for a meal because they don’t have anywhere to go. There are people, elderly people, that don’t have family coming and they are all alone and they don’t want the mess. The way they can give back is enjoy a meal and donate.”

The Hammonds started the event in 1999, and see no end in sight after 16 dedicated years.

“My brother-in-law, he bought the business from the Hammond’s in 1997,” Larry Higgins said. “He came up with the idea in 1999, and that was the year that we sat down with him and purchased the business from him. We officially took it over in January 2000. This is our 16th year.”

The food bank and cancer support group were chosen due to their focus, according to Higgins, and the latter added after Judy Higgins was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.

“We’ve always given to the food bank,” Larry Higgins said. “The cancer support group came about two years ago when my wife discovered she had breast cancer in 2012. It was her idea to get some money to the cancer support group.

“I went to the director of the food bank, Max Bly, and he and I worked out an arrangement and he thought it was a great idea. He had no problems sharing the money with another charity. We split it 50/50 between each organization.”

Higgins was expecting “700 or 750” people at this year’s event and cooked 14 pit hams and 20 to 24 turkey breasts and he “didn’t expect to run out.”

“I really don’t like to sit down and figure it out,” Larry Higgins said from the dining room of the restaurant. “I don’t like to run out so I just throw extra turkeys and hams on the pit.”

Leading up to the Thanksgiving event, there are three days of planning and preparation that take place.

“We start Monday and do a small prep, line out what we want to do,” Larry Higgins said. “On Tuesday, my wife baked all the pies – buttermilk and pumpkin. We also have cookies.”

The Higgins don’t put on the dinner alone as they have an army of volunteers on-hand to help serve the meal.

“They love it,” Larry Higgins said. “All these people are volunteers. They come to give their time to help feed people, plus they know everyone who comes.”

As the event will head into its 17th year in 2015, the event has grown exponentially each year.

“It is pretty well known,” Larry Higgins said of the event. “I will tell you how well it has succeeded. I used to advertise in the paper, but I elected not to advertise this year. People know about it. They call us a month in advance. I used to print flyers out and go to churches, the citizen’s center. So people know about it.”

The Higgins see many familiar faces over the years, and seeing people return is gratifying to the long-standing business owners.

“It makes me feel very overwhelmed when you walk by a table and they are having a prayer and thanking God for someone that has prepared the food and they have a place to go when they have no other place to go,” Larry Higgins said.

The event draws families from not only Glen Rose, but around Somervell County and extending into Hood, Erath and Thompson counties and even as far away as Hico.

“It is very pleasing, it is not overwhelming,” Larry Higgins said. “It is just a blessing we get to do this. We do this every year, and we don’t intend to stop.

“We are just glad to see the happy faces of the people who come out to support the two charities.”

Max Bly, who works as a volunteer at the event, is pleased to see not only the Higgins provide a service to the community, but for the community to come out and support the event.

“Larry and Judy Higgins give so much back to this community,” Bly said. “The money stays local. These two people give to Project Graduation. They are very giving people. This, to the community, is special.

“We love it. We had to beg (Larry) to let us help. Three years ago, he let us coming. He finally gave in. We love it.

“I don’t know if I have the right words. It is special. It is unbelievable that a family would do this. So many people in this community put into this. We have more volunteers this year than we’ve ever had, and that is because they want to give back.”

Brent Addleman is managing editor of the Glen Rose Reporter. He can be reached at 254-897-2282 or email to brent.addleman@theglenrosereporter.com. Follow him on Twitter: @GRR_Editor.