(Posted on Nov. 30, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
When it comes to Thanksgiving, the folks at Phat Daddy’s Pizza–along with their friends and supporters–outdo themselves year after year.
Since 2012, the London restaurant has made free turkey dinners for pickup or delivery on Thanksgiving Day for anyone who wants them. This year, meals went to 1,269 Madison County residents–a new high for the annual effort.
“If you ever want to know how much turkey you need to feed 1,269 people, it’s 729.52 pounds!” said Phat Daddy’s owner, Angie Harris.
The statistics don’t stop there. The team pulling off this huge outreach includes six or seven people in the kitchen and 15 delivery teams usually made up of two people each. The kitchen crew cooks and freezes parts of the meal several days ahead of time, then meets early on the big day to warm it up and prepare the rest of the meal–from corn and baked beans to ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and gravy.
“This year, we started at 4 a.m., two hours earlier than usual because of how many meals we were making,” Harris said.
Three area families arrive at 7 a.m. to bag up rolls, butter, silverware, and thank-you notes listing everyone who donated in some way. The night before, another family takes care of bagging up the pies.
The whole thing got rolling when a local non-profit was unable to keep their own Thanksgiving meal giveaway going. Harris and the Phat Daddy’s staff stepped in. The yearly meal tallies tell the story of how much the outreach has grown:
While these stats are impressive, what can’t be counted by number is the heart-warming amount of goodwill and gratitude that comes from it.
“I still see people at the grocery store who stop me and tell me the only reason they got a Thanksgiving dinner was because of us,” Harris said.
Most of the people who sign up to receive meals are older, on their own, or struggling financially, Harris explained. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents who were stuck at home appreciated the delivery of a special meal. This year, many said their finances were stretched thin due to the economy. No matter a person’s circumstances, Phat Daddy’s opens its Thanksgiving doors to everyone.
That generosity is reciprocated in the form of people coming out of the woodwork to donate time, food, and money.
“For the first three years, we (Phat Daddy’s) did everything and covered all the costs, but now I get a lot of donations,” Harris said.
One example is a man who received a meal five years ago. He was homeless at the time and promised he would donate a turkey every year moving forward. True to his word, he has shown up each of the last four years with a turkey to donate.
Several small businesses and random individuals pitch in. Some people donate the turkeys they receive as gifts from their employers. Others ask for a list of what’s needed and then show up with food.
“I never even ask. People just donate. They just want to help,” Harris said.