Burlington restaurant marks another year of free Thanksgiving dinners

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 5:58 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Meal by meal, Thanksgiving by Thanksgiving for more than 30 years now, downtown Burlington restaurant Sweetwaters has given out thousands of Thanksgiving meals for anyone in the community, no questions asked.

“You receive a free meal and what else can you do but be thankful for here on Thanksgiving Day,” said Gary Balaun of Essex.

Balaun is one of the more than 1,000 people who had Thanksgiving dinner at Sweetwaters on Thursday.

This year, Sweetwaters says they packed around 1,700 pounds of donated Misty Knoll Farms turkey for those who want a hot Thanksgiving meal.

Like last year, due to COVID, they are foregoing their in-restaurant service and gave the meals on a take-out basis.

“I got nothing else going on, so you know what? I gave blood then I headed right over here for the celebration of picking up my meal taking it home and watching the football game,” Balaun said.

Around 50 volunteers pitched in to help pack up the meals which consisted of all the fixings like stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, freshly baked Great Harvest bread and, of course, turkey.

“Why do it? Why not? I mean it’s about giving back to the community. Everyone just comes together, all the volunteers, everyone that really cares about Burlington,” said Sue Reardon, who has volunteered for nine years.

“Help people that need it or for those who don’t have a family, for those who don’t have anyone to spend it with. Especially with me and my mom, it’s just a small family so we are able to contribute,” said Filipe Reardon, who has volunteered for nine years.

Sweetwaters owner David Melincoff says though they wish they could be in the dining room once again, there was no question they would continue these Thanksgiving meals despite COVID.

“Every year Thanksgiving, it’s a great reminder of what we have in life and what we should be grateful for. Sometimes in life people lose the perspective of what they have in the moment, so it teaches you about being grateful,” Melincoff said.

The restaurant also packed up around 750 meals and delivered them to homeless shelters and assisted living homes around the community to ensure no one had to miss out on Thanksgiving.

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