LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Today, hundreds of volunteers met at a Brookshire Brothers warehouse, getting ready for a huge annual food drive that's been going for more than 15 years.
This year is different, though, the woman who began the drive, and filled everyone around her with love and compassion, passed away this year.
"She's just a mother Teresa for East Texas," Bruce Love, a volunteer said.
It's the season of giving, but for Bettie Kennedy she gave all year round.
"She's always been a giving person," Lela Simmons, a childhood friend of Bettie said.
"Usually mama would be feeding someone or doing something to help somebody," Keith Kennedy, Bettie's son said.
Bettie dedicated her life to serving others.
"She was an awesome woman and she took care of Lufkin," Paris Brown, a volunteer said. "She's like the mother of Lufkin."
"No matter what pain she was in, no matter what she was going through, she would say baby today is my good day," Keith said. "Every day I remind myself of that since she's been gone."
Beginning in 1999, Bettie was responsible for feeding many thousands of East Texas families through her community food drive. Her son Keith said Bettie worked hard to build the event, which began with just 50 boxes of food.
Bettie passed away this year, and family members said it's difficult to imagine a food drive without her.
"It's been extremely hard for the family, but we get great joy knowing that mom's spirit and legacy lives with us and we can share that with other people," Keith said.
Hundreds of volunteers are coming to help pack and distribute boxes to families in need. They said that Bettie's spirit is working through them
"I still feel like she's here she's watching over us and she's with everybody helping us," Paris said.
"We certainly miss her, but her spirit is here so today is a good day," Love said.
Bettie left behind a legacy of blind love.
"Show compassion and love to everyone, that's what she stressed," Bettell Lewis-Benham, Bettie's daughter said. "My mother did not discriminate she loved everyone."
Volunteers know her memory will live on through her food drive.
"This whole drive everything you see is an homage to her and her legacy of helping people that are disadvantaged in East Texas," Love said.
This year they expect their work through the food drive to feed around 2,000 families.