Bean’s Cafe staff enjoy a well-deserved day off on Thanksgiving

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 1:26 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For the first time in a long time, the staff at Bean’s Cafe are getting a break this Thanksgiving. For years, the nonprofit has been the main organization that’s provided a warm meal to the city’s homeless population.

Now, thanks to other community partnerships and a program to help local restaurants, staff are able to enjoy a day off.

“For so many years, we’ve had this long-standing tradition of this big congregate meal,” said Lisa Sauder, Bean’s Cafe and Children’s Lunchbox CEO. “Last year, of course we couldn’t do a congregate meal, but we still provided the meal. This year, United Way approached us and said, ‘hey how about if we step in and help support you guys’.”

“This was one of those where we thought maybe we can give them a holiday off, and we can leverage the restaurants that we have to provide these really awesome meals out to the folks that are really struggling the most during the holidays,” added United Way of Anchorage President and CEO Clark Halverson.

The Restaurant and Hunger Relief Program is what made it possible. To date, more than 65 restaurants have served more than 186,000 meals at 34 nonprofit sites in Anchorage. Thanksgiving Day deliveries to the emergency shelter at the Sullivan Arena have been added to that list.

“Then to provide meals, not just a sack lunch to somebody, but a hot meal from Sal’s or from the Writer’s Block or one of those restaurants, just lights up their eyes, so for us, it’s what we want to do, bring the community together (and) create more neighbors,” said Halverson.

The Writer’s Block Bookstore and Cafe Co-Owner Vered Mares, along with two other restaurant owners participating in the program, are grateful for the opportunity to keep employees working and hungry mouths fed.

“This was another opportunity to continue actually working with the general mission of this place, which is to be in, and of, and by, and for our community at large, so this was exactly right up our alley,” Mares said.

“It’s a big challenge to do such a big amount of meals, but we think we’re blessed that at our restaurant, every single person is participating and helping us to provide hot, warm meals to people in need,” added Alejandro Gallo, general manager for AK Alchemist. “We feel it’s a right way to make a happy Thanksgiving for everyone.”

“I’m just going to knock it out of the park,” said Sal Addonisio, owner of Sal’s New York Grill and Catering. “I’m going to try to put as much love and soul into that food and make them enjoy their meal and make them be thankful for what they have on that day.”

For Sauder, the day is bittersweet. She said she’s going to miss spending the day with their clients and staff because it’s become such a tradition.

Come Friday, it’s business as usual for Bean’s Cafe, but on this day, the time off is something to be thankful for.

“It is such a change in so many ways for us, but it’s appreciated to have someone give us some support too,” said Sauder.

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