No invitation needed
The counter at Mrs. Wenger's Restaurant was packed Thursday with slices of pumpkin pie, chocolate cake and other assorted goodies, and those loading them on trays and serving them to the public said there were plenty more where those came from.
"Desserts have been donated by customers and friends," said Mandy Moss, who was among many Wenger family members in the kitchen. "It's been overwhelming, people just wanting to help." Those sweets that weren't eaten by patrons Thursday, who were also treated to a full, free holiday meal, will go to local organizations, Moss said, so nothing goes to waste.
Last year, Mrs. Wenger's served some 150 people on Thanksgiving, according to Moss, who added, "hopefully, we'll have that much or more this year." The downtown restaurant, as well as the nearby Breadbasket, opened their doors to people in need of food and fellowship on the holiday. The Boys and Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County-Church Street Unit, offered the same to all Sanford public housing residents.
"The joy of giving, that's what I hope my family gets," said Nancy Wenger Riddle, who worked in her restaurant alongside several generations of her family and numerous other volunteers. "And I hope those that receive are blessed by it."
Michael Amorosi ate with his wife, Susan, and said they were thankful for somewhere to go.
"We didn't have the money for our own dinner; this is the first time we'd ever heard about this," he said. "It's great. There's not too many people who would do something like this."
Darrell Stewart, who was sitting with the couple, added, "It's a real good thing for those who don't have family around. It's a nice thing to do."
Ronnie Ross, who described himself as a frequent Mrs. Wenger's patron, said, "I think it's an excellent opportunity to give back to the community; I really like this place a lot."
Meanwhile, The Breadbasket was also piling plates high with meat and fixings for dozens of people in need. The community service organization feeds an average of 200-300 people per day and had prepared 180 turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Amanda Pavone, who was filling in for Breadbasket manager Susan Rosenthal, said the objective for the holiday was "to provide a hot meal, a warm place to sit down and eat and the comfort of what could be considered a family." The volunteer contingent included members of the Western Harnett Lions Club, who kept busy carving turkeys.
Unit Director Dana Petty said the Boys and Girls Club gathering drew about 25 people in its first year, and she hopes to make the meal an annual event — "bigger and better" each time.
"It was laid on my heart to give back to the community," she said, "and bring back the real meaning of Thanksgiving, and that's giving to others."