Days of prepping food followed by hours of cooking and cleaning; But ask anyone who lent a helping hand and they will say it’s all worth it.
For many years, Coffee Pot Restaurant and the Sedona Elks Lodge have opened their doors — and hearts — to anyone wishing to join them for a Thanksgiving dinner free of charge. Kim Guisinger, secretary for the Sedona Elks Lodge, said their attendance was up yet again as they served nearly 1,300 people.
“We had just enough food — 100 more people and we would have been in trouble,” she said, laughing. “We had a great turnout. There was a steady flow of people all day. It was a beautiful day so many people got to sit outside and enjoy the weather.” She said over the last few years, the number of people served has steadily increased by about 100 a year.
“The word continues to get out with more and more people hearing about it,” Guisinger said. “We also have a lot of tourists who are grateful they can come for a Thanksgiving dinner while away from home.”
For the Elks, this is one of their bigger projects each year. The free meal costs about $6,000 to $7,000 to host but thanks to donations from attendees, Guisinger said this year they almost broke even. But, that’s not the goal or why they have done it for more than 30 years.
“It gives us all a great feeling and is something we look forward to all year long,” she said, noting that without the help of dozens of volunteers, the event would not be possible. “Most of us have been alone during a holiday at one time or another so it’s nice to have somewhere that people can come, enjoy a great meal and meet other people.”
Damien Daher and his family have been hosting Thanksgiving at their Coffee Pot Restaurant for the past nine years. And like the Elks, their numbers continue to grow.
He said they served about 500 people and took in another $5,000 in donations, which was given to the Sedona Community Food Bank.
“It was another great success,” he said. “Each year it just gets bigger and bigger. The word gets out more each year and we do a better job of promoting it. It’s something we really love to do. The community has been so good to us over the years so we enjoying giving something back.”
Daher said when they began offering the dinner nearly a decade ago, they were focused on providing it to the less fortunate residents or ones who were alone on the holiday. But with time, it’s evolved into a community event.
“That is what’s so great about it — you have people of all walks of life there,” he said. “It’s more inclusive than in years past and that’s the way we like it.”