Craig Harris/Macon County Times A Dip Into Paradise owner Leslie Seagraves organized a free Thanksgiving breakfast for area individuals.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

A Dip Into Paradise owner Leslie Seagraves organized a free Thanksgiving breakfast for area individuals.

Leslie Seagraves has fond memories of past Thanksgivings.

"My little grandmother (91-year-old Frances Carter) always had a Thanksgiving meal, but she's in her 90s now," Seagraves said. "It's too much for her. I think about my grandparents and going to their house. We'd draw names for Christmas, the grandkids did.

"It was spending time with family ... that's the biggest thing."

However, that tradition has changed over the years.

"I usually just stay home and cook for our little family, my husband and our kids," Seagraves said.

It was a new experience for the Lafayette native last Thursday morning though as she entertained individuals from the community with a free breakfast at her business, A Dip Into Paradise.

"I felt like God led me to it," Seagraves said. "It's my way of giving back. If it wasn't for the community, I wouldn't be able to be here."

The business served approximately 55 individuals.

"It was very heart-filling," Seagraves said. "I'm very pleased. Everybody who came in was very appreciative, so thankful.

"Some came and got their food to go. Some came and sat down and talked and visited."

She received help from four of her family members, three of which work at the shop. Her mother (Pam Butler), son (Josh Sturges) and daughter-in-law (Aysiah Oglesby) all helped out, and her brother (Matt Arnold) volunteered his time on Thursday morning as well.

"It was really smooth," Seagraves said. "The way we had it laid out worked out perfectly. My mom, my brother, Josh and Aysiah all pitched in. It went off without a hitch. It was perfect."

Seagraves had thought about hosting the event even before finally deciding to do so.

"It's something I've thought about," Seagraves said. "I was just sitting at home one night. I had it knocking on my heart I guess. I knew that this is what I needed to do.

"Also, I didn't have anything to do on Thanksgiving Day. Why not be here where I love and give back to the community?"

Seagraves didn't know what to expect when she unveiled her Thanksgiving Day intention on the business' Facebook page. The response was overwhelming, reaching approximately 20,000 people.

"It's something huge for me," Seagraves said. "I've had stuff dropped off. We've had cash donations. I never imagined ... I didn't want donations. So many have volunteered to help cook it and serve it. People have been so nice."

While Seagraves has been overwhelmed by the response, she has also been overwhelmed by the response from the Lafayette community since she opened her business in July of 2017.

"It's a lot harder than I thought it was," Seagraves said. "There's a lot more to it (than most people are aware of). We started out with sandwiches and candy. Now, we have a hot meal every day and ice cream.

"I love it ... I really love it. It takes a lot of your time, but this is my passion."

She decided to open the business after working for 18 years in the emergency room at Gallatin's Sumner Regional Medical Center.

"I had fixed a batch of peanut butter balls," Seagraves said. "I dipped them and made them all fancy-looking. Somebody said, 'You need to sell them.' I started selling them for probably a year or so. Then, I started adding stuff little by little. I started with peanut butter balls. Then, I added pretzel rods. Then, it was cake pops.

"The stress of the hospital was getting to me. I took a chance, a leap of faith, and here I am. I may have to close my doors tomorrow, but I've made it this far."

Seagraves continues to see the business expand.

"We cater quite a bit now," Seagraves said. "In the beginning, we didn't do cakes, and now, we do. It's gotten bigger.

"I love it. I just love the people. Some people are in here every day. They became like your family. People really make me feel that I'm more than just a shop for food. They love coming here. They bring their kids a lot. The whole community has made me feel that way."

A Dip Into Paradise served its Thanksgiving meal -- consisting of turkey, ham, dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies and pecan pies -- on Nov. 14 and sold 192 plates.

Last Thursday's breakfast consisted of biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, coffee and orange juice, and then, they served the donated food that included ham, turkey and the fixings.

With the addition of the donated food, the event lasted from 8 a.m. until noon.

"It turned into something big," Seagraves -- whose other grandmother (81-year-old Dorothy Fleetwood) came in on Thursday morning to have coffee and fellowship -- said. "All I wanted is smiling faces and full bellies. I wanted to give them a place to go and something to do.

"If I could do this every day, I would. I just love everybody that comes in. It's just awesome. My main goal is to let everybody feel loved and welcomed. I know I can't save the world, but maybe just a few people came in and appreciated it."