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Multiple free dinners available during Thanksgiving

Volunteers, quantity have increased because of tornado

Al's Family Restaurant is one of several places offering a free Thanksgiving meal in the next week.
Al's Family Restaurant is one of several places offering a free Thanksgiving meal in the next week.

MORRIS – Those looking for food and friendship this Thanksgiving will find no shortage of it in Grundy County.

Several local groups are holding free Thanksgiving dinners in the upcoming week, including Phil Ortiz, who is organizing the 11th annual Thanksgiving dinner at Al’s Family Restaurant in Morris.

“There are a lot of people alone on Thanksgiving,” Ortiz said. “We just want to spread the goodwill and friendship.”

The dinner will be on Thanksgiving day with two seatings – one at noon and the other at 1:30 p.m.

Workers at Al’s Restaurant donate their time every year to cook and serve the dinner, Ortiz said.

This year, Ortiz said donations of used glasses and hearing aids will be accepted at the dinner to be used for I Care International service trips.

I Care is an organization, founded by Ortiz, that works to improve vision and health for those less fortunate. I Care volunteers travel to other countries providing glasses, hearing aids and other medical supplies to people in need.

“We have donated over 10,000 glasses since we began,” Ortiz said.

The city of Diamond also will host two free Thanksgiving dinners this week – one Sunday at the Diamond Banquet Hall and the other Thursday at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

“I noticed some of my customers didn’t have anyone to spend their Thanksgiving with, so I told them to come here,” said Stacy Morales, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe. “We’re like a big family here. We take care of each other.”

The Whistle Stop will hold its second annual Thanksgiving Dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Morales said the restaurant will accept donations for the Kids Christmas Project.

“We’ve seen a few extra donations, but a lot of extra volunteers this year,” Morales said.

In the wake of the tornado, 30 people have volunteered to cook dinner this year whereas last year, seven people volunteered, Morales said.

The Whistle Stop will have carry outs available and will deliver to local people in need if they call 815-634-2360.

The fourth annual dinner at the Diamond Banquet Hall – which has more than 25 sponsors – will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday with carry outs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Last year, the banquet hall served roughly 800 meals. With this year’s tornado, organizer Elsie Dewald said they are prepared to serve 1,000 meals.

Dewald said she and other volunteers were cooking turkeys when Sunday’s tornado hit Coal City and Diamond.

“We want everyone to come out and talk to their neighbors,” Dewald said. “Just come, have a great time and forget about the tornado.”

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