Morgan Mill School was filled with the warm aroma of freshly cooked turkeys Tuesday, which was accompanied by chatty teachers and staff members as they prepped 40 turkeys.

“We’re on number 22,” teacher Shirley Couch said.

Couch and her helpers are pulling out all the stops for the school’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which will be Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“It’s a way of giving back to our community that supports us,” Couch said. “The older community members especially get a feeling of ownership to the school (because of the dinner).”

Superintendent Dean Edwards, who has been with the district for 25 years, said the school has hosted the event for at least 15 years.

“It is a public relations thing, but truly it is such an American thing to do,” Edwards said. “We’ve got just a great school and it’s such a good way to showcase the school.”

Edwards said the experience is also used as a life lesson for students.

“Everything a child needs to know does not come out of a textbook and there are lots of lessons here about giving back to the community and team work,” he said.

For the third year in a row, students will give back to an extended community. Service men and women from Fort Hood will join in the Thanksgiving Dinner.

“I don’t know who’s idea that was, but we do like to honor them at this time of the year,” Edwards said. “We didn’t know with the tragedy (of the Fort Hood shootings) how that would work but I got confirmation (Monday) they would be coming.”

The dinner grows every year and this year is no exception. The school is expecting more than 800 people to fill the gymnasium, which will be set up with 350 dining places that will rotate for diners.

As the school prepares for its holiday visitors, the teachers are enjoying their time of camaraderie.

“We enjoy the fellowship of getting to work together on something other than the classroom,” Couch said.