Restaurants dish out free food for Thanksgiving in light of harder times during pandemic

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Despite COVID-19 impacting business, local restaurant owners decided to give back for Thanksgiving.

In fact, it’s because of the pandemic and knowing that everyone was hurt by the virus in some way that these businesses decided to hand out meals for free.

DosBros Fresh Mexican Grill in Oak Ridge gave away burritos, chips, salsa and a drink for free to anyone who came in from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“No questions asked. Just anyone that you know needs a meal, that’s what we’re here for,” Alfredo Guerrero, the owner of DosBros Oak Ridge, said.

For Guerrero, helping others out on Thanksgiving was all about giving back to those who helped him.

“I put everything behind. You know, I sold my house to make this happen, and the community here of Oak Ridge has been such a blessing not just for me; for my family and my employees. And I think that’s the least we can do for our community here in Oak Ridge that embraced us in all kind of ways,” Guerrero said.

He said his highlights of the day were seeing his employees come in, taking time away from their family just to volunteer; and to see his customers enjoy his food.

For his customers, the meal meant more than Guerrero could know.

“Where I grew up in foster care, um, you know, some foster families didn’t have Thanksgiving, you know, because they had too many kids. So growing up in foster care and seeing a company as big as this doing that, it means a lot,” Kimberly Matias, a DosBros customer, said.

In Halls, Chasity Cha-Cha Shelby, owner of Knox Vittles Food Truck, also decided to give away free food on Thanksgiving.

For her, the decision was personal.

“I had a past life where I had been homeless myself at one time,” Shelby said.

She said she knew there were people in the Halls and Powell area who had food insecurities, so she wanted to be able to bring the food to them.

“I know it’s really hard for people to travel all the way to the KARM shelter to be able to get a free meal, so I wanted to be able to do something in this area,” Shelby said.

Not only did she park her food truck in the Goodwill parking lot in Halls to be more easily accessible, she also had volunteers deliver food to those sheltering in place because of the pandemic.

Shelby said as a food truck owner, she struggled during the pandemic, but she was still blessed and wanted to help others who were down on their luck.

“A lot of people lost their jobs, a lot of people have had reduced hours, there’s a lot of people in the food industry that have lost their jobs and uh, or, you know, just not making as much,” Shelby said.

Shelby said a traditional Thanksgiving meal could cost hundreds of dollars all together, so she made sure her free meal was some of the holiday classics.

“Helps people be able to just have a good meal without having to worry about the extra expense,” Shelby said.

The people who enjoyed her food were truly grateful for that.

“We’re not doing a Thanksgiving meal. It’s uh, we were going to have maybe some ham or something, but they’re giving, you know, turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans. You’re even getting dessert, so it’s awesome,” Ryan Bearden, a Knox Vittles customer, said.

Although Thursday is the national day of giving thanks, both owners wanted their communities to know they can always count on their business when they need help.

Shelby was taking collections of goods for the blessing boxes in Halls and Powell to help others who couldn’t make it to her truck on Thursday.

Guerrero said anyone is welcome at his store if they need a warm meal.

“Don’t necessarily have to be Thanksgiving to be doing this. Anytime of year, any time of year that anyone is hungry, they should not go to bed with an empty stomach. You know, call us. Call us and we’ll be here. Not just today. But anytime of year, we’ll be here to help out anyone that needs it,” Guerrero said.

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