Following a marked increase in attendance and the loss of the cook who used to prepare the meal, the community Thanksgiving dinner this year will be at Old Chicago instead of Manhattan High School East Campus, as it had been in previous years.
“Since I have been here, I’ve seen the number of people asking for help double,” said Maribeth Kieffer, director of the Flint Hills Breadbasket. “We just don’t have the staff or the time to continue providing these types of programs as we have in the past.”
She said the Breadbasket was thrilled that Old Chicago volunteered to host the event, especially after the person who was in charge of cooking the food stepped down.
Ross Grynkiewicz, president of the board of directors for the Breadbasket, said he has seen a rise in need for five years.
“We are taking on almost three times the volume of families than five years ago,” Grynkiewicz said. “We will be inundated with more people as we go on.”
Kieffer, who became head of the Breadbasket a little more than a year ago, said the Thanksgiving dinner initially was meant for low-income families who could not afford to make a Thanksgiving dinner, but now it is open to anyone who has no family to have dinner with, or for anyone just wanting to spend Thanksgiving with the community.
Kieffer said last year they fed about 600 people, but that included volunteers and those people who asked to have a dinner delivered to them. The Breadbasket also delivers baskets of food for families to prepare their own Thanksgiving dinners. She said they have received more than 200 requests for those baskets as well, and she said the Breadbasket will continue to provide those services every year as well.
Grynkiewicz said that from an operational standpoint, the annual Thanksgiving dinner will be all on Old Chicago, but the Breadbasket will continue to help with promotions and provide volunteers to help at the dinner.
Kieffer said she has about 20 people signed up to volunteer during the dinner, and they have been posting fliers around town and at local social services agencies, with the idea of getting the information to the people who are most likely to benefit from the dinner. She also said there will be a sign posted at East Campus on Thanksgiving Day telling those who may show up where the dinner has moved.
Mike Rice, general manager at Old Chicago, said other Old Chicago restaurants host community Thanksgiving dinners and he was excited to host it in Manhattan.
He said the staff has done several things to help get the word out and to gather donations for the event.
“A lot of people have donated various things,” Rice said. “So the community is definitely helping out.”
He said they plan to serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including roasted turkey breast, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy and pies. The staff will put out a donation jar for those who want to give money to cover the cost of the food, but it is not required. He said he plans to feed about 500 people at the event.
The dinner will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 22 at Old Chicago, on the corner of Third Street and Poyntz Avenue next to Manhattan Town Center mall.