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Mother Bear’s to serve free meals on Thanksgiving Day


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By Leonard M. Hunt, Jr.



For most families, Thanksgiving is the time to come together and be thankful for what they have.

But for Mother Bear’s Pizza employees, it’s a time to get together and give back to the community.

On Thanksgiving Day, Mother Bear’s, which was recently named one of the top pizza parlors in the country by USA Today, will provide Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 4 p.m. for free.

“The last few years of the 38 years we have been in business we have been very successful,” co-owner Ray McConn said. “With that, I wanted to do something in order to give back to the community.”

McConn had been contemplating the idea for several years and was fortunate to have more than 400 dinners served for the first free Thanksgiving dinner at Mother Bear’s last year.

“Our first one was a success,” manager J.R. McIntire said. “It set an example for other businesses that no matter how much you make during the year, that you can give back to the community.”

The Thanksgiving dinner is not limited to certain demographics but is open to everyone, rich or poor, McConn said.

Ideally, it is to provide a warm, welcoming place for students who were not able to go home for Thanksgiving or for families that were not able to afford a filling dinner.

“We had a vast array of people last year,” McIntire said.

McIntire recalled a woman who came in for the Thanksgiving dinner last year because her husband had passed away and she had no one to spend Thanksgiving dinner with.

“It was a refreshing feeling,” McIntire said. “We are hoping more people come this year.”

More than 200 people attended last year’s Thanksgiving dinner, and this year, the goal is to double the number of people who attend.

“We all have a great outlook on it,” McIntire said. “Everyone’s heart is in the right place.”

Thanksgiving Eve will be the big day for employees to prepare for the feast in store for the Bloomington community.

“We are planning on making 200 pies,” food prep manager Clark Wick said. “With word of mouth from last year, it should be even crazier.”

The Thanksgiving dinner is going to be set up similar to a buffet, serving Mother Bear’s special Pilgrim’s Pride pizza, which will consist of fresh dough topped with mashed potatoes, turkey and dressing all baked in a pizza oven.

They will also have sides such as a green bean casserole and desserts such as pecan and pumpkin pie to pull off the Thanksgiving effect.

“Last year we had nobody not like the food,” McIntire said. “Not one complaint at all.”

So far, more than 20 volunteers plan to work on Thanksgiving Day to help serve the free meals.

“Not one of them were pressured into working on Thanksgiving Day,” McIntire said. “It’s a really neat thing to be a part of.”

From the volunteer perspective, the atmosphere is obviously very different because none of the workers are getting paid to put on this free dinner.

“It’s worth it in a way,” Wick said. “It’s a nice change of pace from going to your typical Thanksgiving at your parents’ house and giving back to the people who need it the most.”

McConn said Mother Bear’s donates incredible amounts of pizza to certain organizations each year, but this one is different.

“It’s not meant to help out Mother Bear’s,” McConn said. “We have gotten a lot of publicity for it and it is not the intent of doing so, but to simply be a service to the community to just one day a year.”

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