Thanksgiving is a time to consider the blessings in your life and celebrate those with family and friends over a massive feast.

But for needy families throughout Johnson County, it can be a struggle to have even a simple meal, let alone a banquet.

That is what motivated two local residents to help this holiday season. Nate Murray and Miranda Meddel have created a community service group called Be the Difference, focused on helping the needy of Johnson County through a different project each month.

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This month, the pair are collecting donations for turkey, stuffing, green beans and other food. The hope is to create a holiday meal for at least 10 families who otherwise couldn’t afford one.

“We wanted to make a difference in the community. We wanted to make a change,” Murray said. “If we don’t do it, then who’s going to do it? When is it going to happen?”

Murray, 26, and Meddel, 23, formed the group this year. The couple both have ties to the Franklin area — Meddel works and lives here, while Murray graduated from Franklin College.

The inspiration to try to do something for the people of Johnson County came as they started paying more attention to their faiths.

“We started going to church regularly, and it inspired us to give back to our community the way we could,” Meddel said. “Growing up, we were one of the families who needed that assistance, so we wanted to help someone if we could.”

The idea was to come up with a focused community service project each month.

The duo made their first attempt in October, when they collected more than 100 gently used stuffed animals for the Franklin Fire Department. The idea was that when firefighters respond to an emergency they can have something to give to children who have lost their homes to a fire or suffered some other trauma.

“Maybe they could make a positive impact after going through such a tragic event,” Murray said.

The projects will continue each month. November was a natural time for “Operation Mayflower,” the pair’s name for the food collection. Donation boxes are set up at locations throughout Franklin, where people have dropped off mashed potatoes, rolls, sweet potatoes and other nonperishable goods.

For those willing to donate a holiday turkey or ham, Murray and Meddel have offered to pick those items up from people’s homes.

“We’ve had a great response from the community,” Meddel said. “We have a lot of canned goods, now we just mostly need the turkeys and stuffing, couple more things of mashed potatoes and stuffing.”

To a lesser extent, monetary donations have been accepted at the drop-off points, too. But the emphasis has been on food donations.

“Some people look at that like we just want money from them,” Murray said. “We’re trying to give back 100 percent, as much as we can. We don’t want anyone to think that we’re just going to take their money.”

The pair have worked with churches in Franklin to get recommendations of families in need. They also called local schools and talked to guidance counselors about those who could benefit from the giveaway.

Plans are in place for projects in coming months. Murray is a U.S. Army veteran, and they’ll be collecting items for care packages to send to area military members in December.

“I know what it’s like to go through some troubling times, not only financially but where you live and what you have to deal with in your community,” Murray said. “We want to help as many people as we can.”

How to Help

What: Operation Mayflower, an effort by local residents Nate Murray and Miranda Meddel to collect enough food to distribute to at least 10 families for Thanksgiving.

Donations requested:

  • Turkey
  • Green beans
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Rolls

Optional donations

  • Ham
  • Pie
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Other canned vegetables

Cash donations will also be accepted.

Donation locations

  • CVS Pharmacy, 11 N. Morton St., Franklin
  • Walgreens, 20 S. Morton St., Franklin
  • Sun Tan City, 1149 N. Morton St., Franklin

Note: Anyone wishing to donate turkeys or ham, please contact Meddel or Murray to arrange for pickup.

Information: Contact Murray at 254-449-4233 or Meddel at 833-5757

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.