For anyone who doesn?t have a place to go Thanksgiving Day, or for anyone in financial need, Mike and Donna Klose of Hillsboro, owners and operators of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Walton, are opening the doors of their eatery for free meals.
There are no rules, age limits or restrictions?anybody is welcome, Donna said. Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This is the second year the couple has shared Thanks?giving Day with others at their restaurant.
?Last year we had about 200 people from Newton, Goessel, Marion, Peabody, Hillsboro (and other places),? she said. ?We never thought about doing this before, but now we see so many seniors come in here and, their kids are scattered and gone. They were literally not having Thanksgiving.?
Donna said the experience is like having a big family eating together with people coming in and sitting with others they didn?t even know?but becoming friends by the time they leave.
?We go from table to table and sit or talk with everyone, too,? she said.
When people walked through the front door last year, Donna said it was a blessing to see the smiles on their faces.
?We have a sign on the back wall and it reads: ?We Are All Family In God?s Eyes,?? she said. ?And, it is like a family in here. When people come in, we tell them it?s free (or free-will donation). We don?t want anyone to go hungry or be alone. ?
The idea isn?t to make money. In fact, Donna said, they didn?t make any money last year, but did have enough in donations to pay for the food.
?I told Mike, Thanksgiving Day is our way of giving back,? she said.
Everyone is so thankful after their meal, too, Mike said, which makes their effort worthwhile.
While it can be difficult to plan a Thanksgiving meal for a family, Donna said estimating how much food to prepare for her extended family is even trickier.
?We will (prepare) six turkeys and three or four hams, stuffing, candied yams, homemade macaroni and cheese and a salad bar,? she said.
Donna said she started with desserts Monday and Tuesday and by Wednesday would begin preparing the turkeys.
?It is buffet style,? she said. ?Whatever anybody wants to eat they can and they can go through as many times as they want. People have been calling for reservations, but we won?t take them?we just want them to come on in and eat.?
To help with cleanup, they plan to use paper plates.
Donna said they just found out they were on Facebook for being one of the 10 best restaurants for breakfast.
?We are No. 4, with Durham Cafe coming in third,? she said. ?We didn?t even know about it until some customers told us.?
The top two spots, according to a food critic who visited restaurants across the state, were in Wichita and Manhattan.
?I know our restaurant is older, with mismatched chairs and Sirloin Stockade tables, but if I get a No. 4 for food, that beats any No. 1-looking restaurant,? she said.
Donna said she has been in the restaurant business for about two decades, but she?s been at the Whistle Stop Cafe for seven years.
?I left for not quite a year and then came back,? she said.
Husband Mike helps on Sundays, but he has a full-time job at Hillsboro Industries during the week.