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RaeZack’s plans free Thanksgiving, hopes for 500-plus

For a third consecutive year, free Thanksgiving dinners will be available to one and all at RaeZack's in Helenwood. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 25, RaeZack's will be open for turkey-and-dressing dinners. Michelle King, who owns the restaurant alongside her husband, Dan, hopes to feed more than 500 people this year. And she hopes the event continues to grow until it reaches thousands of people each year. "It's just a blessing," she said.

HELENWOOD — When RaeZack’s first offered its free Thanksgiving dinner two years ago, Michelle King made it clear that it wasn’t just a meal for the under-privileged or those with nowhere else to go. It was, she said, a meal for everyone.

Now in its third year, the Thanksgiving dinner at RaeZack’s holds to that same principle. It is for the homeless, the hungry and those in need, of course. But it’s also for those who could afford a hundred Thanksgiving dinners but have no one to share the special day with.

“It’s for anyone and everyone,” said Michelle King, who along with her husband, Dan, owns and operates RaeZack’s. “It’s for anyone who wants to come and enjoy a hot meal. Whether they’re home alone, or just cooking for two or three, or they can’t afford it, or they just want to get out and be with other people. We want them to come from all around.”

RaeZack’s, a family-owned restaurant, is closed on weekends — “the best decision we ever made,” King says of that move — and frequently closes for vacations, holidays and other events. Family time is a priority in the King household.

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But Thanksgiving is an exception to that rule. The Kings, their extended family and many of their employees and friends sacrifice their Thanksgiving to be sure everyone has a turkey-and-dressing meal and company to share it with.

Prep work has already begun for Thursday’s meal, which will be served from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The dining room will be open, but meals will also be available to go. The drive thru will not be open.

Many organizations and businesses that offer a free Thanksgiving meal might be worried about people taking advantage of it. That’s never been a concern for the Kings. After all, the meal isn’t being offered just to those who couldn’t otherwise afford a turkey dinner. That’s not the point.

The Kings fed more than 300 people that first year. Last year, covid forced them to close the dining room and offer drive-thru meals only. They served until they ran out — more than 400 meals in all.

“Hopefully this year will be 500-plus,” King said. “Hopefully every year will go up. I want to reach the thousands.”

King said there’s a warm feeling in knowing that people plan on the Thanksgiving dinners at RaeZack’s.

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“It makes me feel special, knowing that they get to come here and eat, and they’re getting loved on,” she said. “Last year was drive-thru only, and it took away from that. But this year I feel like it’s going to be different. I hope it’s full. I hope the food is multiplied, and the people multiply. It’s just a blessing.”

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