KALAMAZOO, MI – The tradition of serving free Thanksgiving meals began in 1977 for Greek immigrants Theo and Stacy Skartsiaris at their eponymous restaurant Theo and Stacy’s in downtown Kalamazoo, according to their website. The family business soon grew to three locations in Michigan. Though Theo Skartsiaris passed away in 1994, his wife Stacy, 72, and the rest of the family who joined the business keep up the tradition.
She said, “We don't ask any questions. It’s not necessary to be homeless. A lot of times people around the holidays, they're very lonely, and they like to be around other people,” mlive.com reported.
Her late husband saw a man eating out of the garbage and was inspired to start the tradition for Thanksgiving. “We're blessed we can do it,” Mrs. Skartsiaris said, mlive.com reported, adding that the “family hosts the meal to give back to the community that has supported the restaurant throughout the year.”
Over 800 pounds of food including turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy, and stuffing were cooked for the meal, according to mlive.com.
Many have attended the meal annually for years, including Margaret Branson, who has been through “hard times and good times, but no matter what Skartsiaris has welcomed her,” mlive.com reported, adding that with tears in her eyes, she said, “I’m grateful today. I’m grateful that God has given me a breath to breathe this morning. I am grateful to be so blessed.”
Skartsiaris’ daughters, Betty Peristeridis and Joanna French, are also co-owners of Theo and Stacy's downtown and Peristeridis greeted the people as they entered and offered hats, gloves, and scarves, to those on their way out of the restaurant as well, mlive.com reported.
When an anonymous donor offered a financial contribution to Skartsiaris to help pay for the Thanksgiving meal, she told them she would not use the money to buy food, but for “over 500 gloves, hats, and scarves for children and adults,” mlive.com reported, adding that Skartsiaris “never accepts donations for the meal because the food is her family's gift to the community.”
“I never pay attention to how much it costs. It is what it is. Everything is not about money,” she said, mlive.com reported.