Some dedicated people and places in Salem do everything they can to ensure people do not have an empty stomach or feel unloved on Thanksgiving.
There was a long line for a free meal at Blondeez Restaurant near Hayesville in Salem at 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. As guests stepped inside, “Grandpa” aka Larry Bender, efficiently greeted people as they came in and assigned seats throughout the restaurant. It’s a family affair as his daughter, Melissa Lucas, owns the restaurant.
“We are all recruited at this time of year, I don’t mind. I like to help out,” Bender said in between seating guests.
Blondeez bustled with activity and noise as guests cleaned their plates and servers hustled meals out of the kitchen at lightning speed.
Lucas started working at Blondeez in 2006, saved her tips and then bought the restaurant herself in 2016. As the owner, she considers Thanksgiving Day a way to give back to the community.
“We will feed probably 300 people today,” Lucas said. “I think I am the only restaurant today in Salem feeding people for free. I wish more restaurants were joining in, why wouldn’t you do this if you had the means to? The need is so great. I am already set up to serve food, I thought this is what I can do to help the most I can.”
Arches Day Center was dishing up a full Thanksgiving Day meal to about 200 guests on Thanksgiving Day. Guests and their canine companions were welcome inside the dining room. Many patrons have dogs as protection and feel more secure on the streets with them.
Last year the center was unable to open up to patrons, and the meal had to be served outside in 35-degree weather in the parking lot, so everyone appreciated being inside and not having to sit outside on the ground to eat their food.
The kitchen staff was working hard to make these meals happen with limited volunteers. Currently, almost everyone who works as ARCHES comes in and helps serve meals on Thanksgiving Day. Many employees give up time with their own families to come in and help serve guests.
When asked how people could help, Kitchen Coordinator Kerri Harmon replied “It would really help if people would refrain from being so judgmental. There are some really great souls here. Not everyone who is homeless is a bad person. We are all one step away from being homeless sometimes.”
ARCHES not only provides Thanksgiving Day meals to guests at the Day Center, but they also provide meals to guests who stay at the ARCHES Lodge on Hawthorne Road which made for a busy day for everyone. “We get it all done,” Harmon said. “We could really use some more volunteer help though. There is a lot to do around here.”
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Laura Tesler has lived in Salem, Oregon for 20 years and is originally from Flint, MI. Laura has been an underwater photographer for 15 years, and is an avid scuba diver. Topside, she has been taking photographs since age 12, and currently works on assignment for the Salem Reporter, and full time purchasing land for fish and wildlife habitat in the Willamette Valley. Laura attended Oregon State University, and has traveled extensively all over the world and the United States.