Sweetwaters marks 30 years of free Thanksgiving dinners

Despite having to make adjustments for COVID, Sweetwaters continued its annual free Thanksgiving dinner and coat giveaway.
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 2:48 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A 30-year Thanksgiving tradition in Burlington is not stopping this year, but in 2020, it looks a little different.

For decades, Sweetwaters has opened up its doors to anyone who needs a meal on Thanksgiving.

“Yeah, a little different this year,” said David Melincoff of Sweetwaters.

The coat drive and free meal giveaway continued this year. But instead of gathering around the Thanksgiving table, all the food was served to-go.

“When the pandemic first happened, we got closed down. One of the first things I said to my wife back in March was we have to think of a different way of doing this,” Melincoff said.

Nearly 2,000 meals were handed out with all the traditional fixings, most of the food sourced locally.

At times, the line stretched down Church Street.

Some say they come every year.

“About 30 years, give or take a year,” said Jason Senna of Burlington.

Others were bringing meals to people who couldn’t wait in line.

“I’m actually delivering a meal for someone,” said Ryan Alexander of Burlington.

“Actually, I didn’t think they were going to do it this year because of the virus,” said Kimberly Clark of Burlington.

But for those who stopped to get a free meal on Thanksgiving, they say it’s something they are thankful for.

“I am very grateful and thankful that Sweetwaters is doing this,” said Mike Leger of Burlington. “I appreciate it very much.”

“It’s very important, especially when money is tight,” said Paul Maple of Winooski.

And that’s why the restaurant says they kept going even during the pandemic.

“It was just important to just keep doing that and to service the community. And it’s also a great time to be thankful for what we do have,” Melincoff said.

Any leftover food will be donated to local shelters.

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