by Lisa Tome
On Thursday, diners will eat Thanksgiving dinner at North East's Paradise Grille.
When it comes time to pay the check, there will be no charge.
For the fifth year, the restaurant is opening its doors on Thanksgiving and offering free turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, green beans, cole slaw, cranberry sauce, rolls, pie, and beverages.
"This year, we'll be into the 300s (number of meals served)," said Carol Halsey, one of the owners of Paradise Grille.
When the event was first held, 89 meals were served. Last year, 208 people ate in the restaurant. There were also 60 carry out meals provided.
Halsey said that when the event began, she started calling local churches in hopes of finding a place where she could help provide meals. Finding none, she recruited her family and the restaurant staff and started hosting them at the restaurant.
"Now it's become an expectation. People want to help and people want to eat," said Halsey. She also said that people start contacting her as early as September to either offer help, or see if the meal will be served.
"It's a very emotional day. We hear lots of stories from single parents who had nowhere to go with their kids. Or from people with medical issues that can't travel," said Halsey.
Preparations cranked into high gear last week. Local band The Vigilantes performed for a benefit for the dinner. Customers brought items for a food drive. Some of the items will be used to prepare the meal. Others will feed the needy. "Everybody that came in the door had a bag or a box of food," said Halsey. Cub Scout Troop 151 also held a canned food drive to help the cause.
Vendors that serve the business also donate items such as plates and plastic ware. "We are really, really grateful for all the donations. The support has been tremendous," said Halsey.
"It's a great day. We do not sell anything. We have a donations jar if people want to leave something," said Halsey. That money is then converted to gift cards and donated to the Cecil County Help Center.
The meal will be served up twice. There are seatings from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 2-5 p.m. Seating is limited and reservations are suggested. Reserve by calling 410-287-5477. There will also be carryout meals available for shut ins. The restaurant is located in the 500 block of South Main Street, North East. Any food left over from the meal will also be eaten. All hot food will be delivered to the men's and women's shelters in Elkton.