EVANSTON — Three years ago, a regular coffee customer at Jody’s Diner wanted to pay for some people to have a Thanksgiving dinner at Jody’s. Owner and operator Jody Burton said, “This got me to thinking about doing a free dinner for people who had no place to go or couldn’t afford a big holiday dinner.”
Thus, a free annual Thanksgiving dinner event began at one of Evanston’s most popular eating establishment. Jody’s mother, Chris Ellison, said they usually serve approximately 200 people from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. This year, Burton said they served around 170 free meals, including those meals they delivered or were taken to go. Homebound citizens could sign up two weeks in advance for delivered meals.
Last year and this year, the Calvary Church donated money and had volunteers for the event. A local Girl Scout chapter donated all the pies and desserts. The regular waitresses at Jody’s volunteer to work that day, and Jody’s family helps as well. Other people brought food and donated money.
Customer Moe Sinnett said she comes to Jody’s dinner because her family lives far away. “I am happy when the turkey is in someone else’s oven,” she said with a laugh.
Diane Swain is a full-time waitress at Jody’s who volunteered to work on the holiday. Swain use to be a long-distance truck driver, but when she had cancer three years ago, Burton agreed to let her work and adjust her time so she could get her treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City.
“So, I quit truck driving and came to work full-time for Jody,” Swain said. “What I like best here is the local people who come in, and working here is like being in a large family.”
Don Barnhardt was enjoying a good meal and said, “I’ve come here all three years and really enjoy it. Jody takes care of the community and does a great job. The food is good and the people are great.”
Burton has started a wonderful tradition for the community of Evanston. She said she wants to give a big thank you to all who came to eat, to those who helped in a variety of ways, to Carol at the Posey Shoppe who sent flowers for the tables, and to those who donated time and money.
When asked if she had time to eat the Thanksgiving dinner she responded with a laugh, “I couldn’t look at a turkey at the end of the day. I ate pizza for supper.”