Community unites for three free Thanksgiving feasts |

Community unites for three free Thanksgiving feasts

Robyn Moormeister
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Sal Zaccarello samples the turkey with his wife Lil at the Carson Nugget Coffee Shop on Thursday.

What are you thankful for?

“Community” and “turkey” was the resounding answer of most people gathered at three free Thanksgiving feasts at the Carson Nugget, Bully’s Restaurant and Stewart Community Baptist Church on Thursday.

“Our community has been there for us, and now it’s time for us to give back,” said Bully’s manager Michael Lawrence, while tending his bar covered in paper plates overflowing with turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and happy, full customers.

“It’s Thanksgiving, but it’s also a sports day, so what better place to come than a family sports bar?”

Regulars chatted on bar stools, while children romped around the tables and watched one of the many, blaring televisions.

“It’s such a comfortable feeling in here today,” said Bully’s regular Lavon Reid, 38. Two of her friends recently died, and she wanted to take a break, so Bully’s bar was the obvious answer. “I don’t even like cranberry sauce, but I can’t stop eating this stuff.”

Nine-year-old Dartanyan Frisina, of Carson City, meandered through the crowd collecting emptied paper plates and used plastic cups and forks. His mother, Angela, thought it would be a good way to teach him the benefits of giving.

“At first, I felt kind of nervous asking strangers if they wanted me to take their stuff,” Dartanyan said with a shy smile, “but I really like it now. It’s a great experience.”

A steady stream of customers flowed through Bully’s all day.

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At the Carson Nugget, the line to get into the Coffee Shop at 11 a.m. stretched 40 feet into a maze of slot machines.

Mark Morrison, of Reno, said he had many family feasts to attend, each with its different, warring faction, so a free meal at the Nugget was the less stressful option.

“Everybody’s going to a different dinner, and I’m cooking dinner for my mom and dad tomorrow,” Morrison said.

His parents Len and Dot Kratz played the slots while he held their place in line, leaning on post-knee-operation crutches.

Carson Nugget staff scurried through a hot kitchen, grabbing vats of mashed potatoes and frantically chopping vegetables for the approximately 2,300 diners.

Executive chef Mario Santos and a dozen cooks had been preparing the day’s feast since 3 a.m.

“It’s like being in the Army,” said Santos, who was in the Mexican army before he arrived in the United States more than 13 years ago.

The huge line quickly dissipated as the experienced staff hustled to speed things along.

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Dinner at Stewart Community Baptist Church at the Stewart Indian Colony was a delicious and multicultural experience.

American Indians enjoyed a smorgasbord of salads, pies, turkey and other goodies while sitting side-by-side with white Silver Hills Community Church members.

Full-blooded Paiute-Shoshone pastor Wayne Ellison said the dinner was a symbol of local cross-cultural mending.

“There definitely needs to be healing between natives and whites here,” Ellison said.

His wife, Shelley Ellison, circled the room, delivering heaping plates of food to both congregations.

Rebecca Thomas and James Axelson, parishioners of the Silver Hills Community Church, said the mix of people was refreshing.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Thomas said. “We could eat dinner surrounded by typical family fighting, but here the strangers mix well. It’s a nice environment.”

In the other room was a pile of a dozen, large boxes packed with donated clothes, free to anyone in need. Next to that was a mound of free children’s coats, donated by parishioners.

“We’ve been collecting coats for two months now,” Shelley Ellison said. “People can just pull out what they want.”

Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at or 881-1217.