Thanksgiving is synonymous with food and family. But for people without anywhere to go, it can be a lonely day.
A restaurant in La Plata, Maryland, will open its doors on Thursday to anyone without somewhere to go. The owner of Galazio Restaurant and a team of volunteers said they want to make Thanksgiving a happy day for everyone.
"It's not a handout -- it's a place Thanksgiving orphans can share a meal together," volunteer Larry Bisagni said.
This is the third year that Galazio will host the community meal. Last year, they served military members whose loved ones lived elsewhere, business executives, full families and even naturalists who lived in the woods, restaurant owner Joe Gressis said.
Galazio typically serves Greek food, but on Thanksgiving the chefs will serve up turkey, stuffing and the holiday classics. One group donated more than 20 turkeys to the cause, enabling the hosts to add prime rib to the menu as well, Gressis said.
“It’s not like a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, where people stand in line. It’s a real sit-down dinner with tablecloths and delicious food,” he said.
The feast this year will honor Carol Bisagni, a “a relentless force for good in the community” who died Nov. 20, 2016, her son, the volunteer Larry Bisagni, said.
Carol Bisagni was Galazio's first volunteer at the dinner, both men said. She moved from New England to D.C. in 1963, inspired by the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream Speech,” her son said.
When he was young, his mother went home with bread and bologna and had him help her make sandwiches for people in need.
“Immediately, I knew those sandwiches were not for us,” he said. They were for women fleeing domestic violence.
At the dinner last year, one of Galazio's dinner guests mirrored Carol Bisagni’s giving spirit. The man put $100 in a donation jar and said he wished he had had someplace to go for Thanksgiving after he lost his job amid the economic downturn of 2008, Larry Bisagni said.
That man wasn't homeless. Other dinner guests last year were.
“People often equate homelessness with drug abuse, alcoholism or some other sort of addiction. But the truth of the matter is one hardship in life can really put you there,” Larry Bisagni said.
Gressis said all are welcome at the meal.
“The community supports our restaurant 364 days out of the year, so this one day out of the year is on us,” Gressis said.
Reservations can be made by calling 301-392-9500. Though not mandatory, Gressi said reservations are highly recommended so Galazio's cooks can prepare enough food.
Another free community Thanksgiving dinner will be held at the Boston Market in Riverdale, Maryland, from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday. The dinner’s organizer, J. Clemonts, said this is his second time hosting such a gathering.
“The people who came may not have been related, but they were certainly family on that day,” J. said.