Anchorage residents gather to serve free Thanksgiving meals
As this year’s Thanksgiving approaches, groups across Anchorage are working to offer free meals on Thursday to those in need.
Bean’s Cafe at 1101 E. 3rd Ave. is planning to host its annual Thanksgiving service, serving an estimated 1,200 meals. According to Executive Director Lisa Sauder, Bean’s will be using space at the adjacent Brother Francis Shelter to serve breakfast and coffee in the morning; seating for the Thanksgiving meal will begin at 10 a.m., with service starting at about 11:30 a.m.
Diners will be able to help themselves to plenty of food, Sauder said, after some of them objected to an experiment with restaurant-style service by volunteers last year.
“We want to make sure that everybody gets seconds, because that’s an important part of Thanksgiving,” Sauder said. “The clients really preferred that it was a buffet, so we’re back to doing it as a buffet this year.”
More than 100 people have already volunteered for the meal at Bean’s, Sauder said, although people who show up to help Thursday can still help with “less glamorous” jobs.
Staff at Bean’s are still looking for donations of side items including breakfast meats, coffee, store-bought pies, marshmallows, toilet paper and canned whipped topping, yams and vegetables. Donations can be dropped off at Bean’s, or made online through its website.
Lucy Hollenbeck, owner Andy Kriner’s daughter, said the Midtown restaurant expects to serve about 300 people in-house, plus more who call Kriner’s at 907-929-8257 to request take-out meals.
Although food-service distributor Sysco has donated a dozen turkeys to the Kriner’s meal, Hollenbeck said others have been bought by locals for the event.
“We’ve had two Kriner’s Facebook friends donate their own turkeys – one of them, she said she spent $100 at Carrs and we said, ‘Bring it over,’” Hollenbeck said. “The community isn’t just about the free Thanksgiving meal; it’s about the community coming together to make this meal happen.”
This year Kriner’s is expanding the tradition to the Kenai Peninsula with an 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. meal at the Solid Rock Bible Camp, hosted by Andy Kriner’s brother and son Sam Blakely and Jerry Kriner, at 36251 Solid Rock Rd. in Soldotna. Any tips there will be given to the Freedom House, a faith-based recovery residence in Soldotna.
The Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage at 415 E St. restaurant will open for its third year from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday to feed an estimated 200 families.
The restaurant’s general manager, Mark Poplawski, said staff have been working with the Anchorage School District and Catholic Social Services to identify people in need for the event, but anyone can still come and eat.
“We’re not going to be checking IDs or checking any vouchers,” Poplawski said. “We’ll warm you up and give you some Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.”
The Hard Rock is also encouraging any volunteers who’d like to help with Thursday’s service to come forward.
The Union of Students at the University of Alaska Anchorage is hosting a meal from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Gorsuch Commons at 3700 Sharon Gagnon Lane. The feast will be prepared and served by UAA students.
Kari Sellars, a hospitality manager for NANA Management Services, said the Creekside Eatery meal fulfills a unique role for far-flung students still in town during the holiday.
“This event is a great opportunity for exchange students and students staying on campus,” Sellars said. “Students will be cooking food today and serving tomorrow.”
Alaska Pretrial Services at 6410 DeBarr Rd. in East Anchorage is hosting an evening Thanksgiving meal from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., as well as free haircuts to those in need.
Dennis Johnson, the program director at APS, said the event started in 2014, when staff piloting a state alcohol and drug-monitoring program bought gift cards for people who had “nothing to go, nothing to do” on Thanksgiving.
“Around the holidays is the hardest for everybody, whether you’re down on your luck or you’re doing well, because all of your woes – whatever you’ve got going on in your life – all comes to a head,” Johnson said.
Over the years, Johnson said the meal has become an East Anchorage gathering point. Stylists joined the event to help bolster the self-confidence of Alaska Pretrial’s clients as they rehabilitate.
“The basis around it is, whenever you get a fresh clean haircut you feel really good about yourself,” Johnson said. “And when you’re eating a good meal around people like yourself, you feel really good.”
The Alaska Pretrial event is full up for volunteers, although more food to serve the 100 to 250 expected guests would be welcome.
“I think if anyone had an extra turkey we could always use an extra turkey and if we have more than enough we could hand some out at Christmas,” Johnson said.