Thanksgiving 2017 Served Up With Love and Gratitude

By CINDY TEEPLE | Nov 29, 2017
Courtesy of: Cindy Teeple The author’s husband, Michael, digs into the Sandbox’s special, free turkey dinner – the restaurant’s way of giving back to the community.

I was humbled to attend a magical event on Thanksgiving Day, and I would like to share just a bit of that magic with you before it evaporates in my mind.

One of our favorite places to eat breakfast when my husband, Michael, and I are on the Island is The Sandbox Café in Surf City. We were having breakfast there one day in October when the owner came over to our table, pulled out a chair and sat down. She then looked at us and said, “Why don’t you guys join us for Thanksgiving? The doors will open at noon, we’re going to be serving until 5 and it will be on us.” The restaurant is owned by Dana DiSalvio and her husband, Vinnie. I believe we might have appeared a little shell-shocked when Dana said the meals would be free, but we said we would think about it.

Thinking about it turned into “reality” on Thanksgiving Day. Michael and I had discussed it and decided that it would be nice to sit down for turkey and all the trimmings and not have to worry about the cooking or cleaning up. I will admit that I was a bit concerned about not having a turkey carcass to nibble on at midnight or make turkey soup with, but I said to myself, you can’t have it all.

I must also admit that there was a teensy bit of curiosity attached to our decision to eat out on Thanksgiving Day. It would be a free meal at a restaurant that we know and love and also know to serve fabulously prepared fresh foods, but would we not be taking food out of the mouths of individuals who are truly needy, and would it be served like at a soup kitchen (standing in line while someone plops a mound of indiscernible goo on your plate)?!

We arrived at about 3 p.m. to find this little gem of a restaurant hopping. There is no other word for it. We were greeted with smiles and handshakes by one of the many volunteers helping Dana and Vinnie to make this Thanksgiving Day truly special for everyone and anyone who walked through their door.

We were shown to a table, and the extra place servings were whisked away while we were asked what we would like to drink. Wow, I thought, just like a real restaurant only with better, more concerned waitstaff.
Two lovely little braided blond girls brought salads and warm rolls with butter to our table with a flourish (of course, escorted by their mom).

The air was electrified with joyous and loud energy coming from both the volunteer waitstaff as well as the diners. There is no other word for it except “grateful” – to whomever one chooses to believe in for all of us coming together on Thanksgiving, grateful to Dana and Vinnie for making this event come to fruition and grateful to the many volunteers who were doing such an incredible job making sure that everyone was well taken care of.

The tables were filled with all age groups from babies to the elderly using walkers, all ethnicities as well as every socioeconomic group. The meal was extraordinary: moist and juicy turkey, served atop delicious stuffing (definitely not from a box), gravy, vegetables and ending with a choice of two fruit pies or the traditional pumpkin with coffee or tea.

Thanksgiving Day 2017 is going to be forever stored in my memory bank as one of the best of my life, all because these two business owners who own two restaurants on what is becoming one of the most expensive islands on which to own a home decided to “give back.”

Dana sat with us for a few minutes to explain how this event originated. She said it is a day for her to say thank you and also to help out some Island neighbors who may simply be a little down on their luck. Dana told us about a grandma who came in with her granddaughters, whom she is raising. This woman has not recovered from Sandy, has sketchy electricity and heat, lives in the trailer park and would not have been able to provide a nice meal for her little family had it not been for The Sandbox. There was also a story of a young man who walked in alone and told Dana that his mother taught him that he should never go to someone’s home for a meal and not bring along a gift as he handed her a bag of seven clams.

In a world that provides daily surprises and stories of the atrocities occurring throughout the world, as well as in our own backyards, a world where consideration and kindness seem to have taken a backseat to just about everything else, it was uplifting and inspiring to sit amongst other LBI-ers and share with them a traditional Thanksgiving meal, provided with sincerity and love by a family who simply wanted to “give a little something back.”

P.S. Dana and her 40 volunteer elves served over 160 meals, and donations to the St. Francis food pantry collected by the DiSalvios on Thanksgiving Day totaled over $1,160.

Cindy Teeple lives in Kent Lakes, N.Y., and Holgate.



Comments (1)
Posted by: Jean D Ragone | Nov 30, 2017 12:05

I believe that this is the second year that the Sandbox has provided free-of-charge Thanksgiving meals to anyone who joins them. Not to diminish in anyway what they are doing, I believe that a shout out needs to go to any other restaurant that helped them this year. Chophouse414 in Surf City comes to mind.

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