You've lost your job, your home, maybe even your loved ones. What's there to be thankful for this year?
Now more than ever churches, community centers, and even one upscale restaurant, are opening their doors on Thanksgiving to offer a free meal and a warm atmosphere to say: You are not alone.
On Thursday Langosta Lounge, the popular Mexican restaurant on the boardwalk in Asbury Park known for its sustainable ingredients and artfully prepared meals, will be packed as usual.
The only difference is, on this night, all those meals will be handed out free, thanks to owner Marilyn Schlossbach, Pat Sherman of Feeding Friendz, a grassroots effort to support the area's homeless and hungry, and the congregation at Trinity Church in Asbury Park.
The community kitchen, as Scholassbach calls it, began about five years ago when the restaurateur turned to her friend Pat Sherman and said, "I'd love to open up the restaurant to people for free on Thanksgiving."
"I've been doing that in the basement of a church," she recalls Sherman saying. "I'd love to have it in a restaurant."
And so they started just doing that in one of Schlossbach's smaller establishments with a crowd of about 200. Soon that venue became too small and the event was moved to Langosta Lounge and additional community kitchens were added for Christmas and Easter. For a look at what a community kitchen is all about, check out this video of Langosta's Christmas dinner.
The kitchens have become part of Schlossbach's larger grassroots effort called Food for Thought by The Sea.
At Langosta diners are treated to a buffet of traditional Thanksgiving fare at tables decorated with flowers and candy and live music. Every diner is attended to by one of Schlossbach's staff and a bevy of volunteers, all in an effort to keep it "a little bit elevated," she says.
Schlossbach handles food donations and restaurant set-up, while Sherman coordinates the volunteers. This is the fourth year Marilyn and Pat have held the Thanksgiving community dinner at Langosta Lounge. In addition to food donations, hats, gloves, scarves and toiletries are also made available to guests. The open house style event serves patrons from 11 - 3pm.
Even though Schlossbach is an accomplished chef with six restaurants, feeding the hungry was not the main reason she started the community kitchen. "I lost my parents very young and the holidays have always been a difficult time for me," she said. "My husband and I celebrate our holidays here and take our personal problems out of the mix and do something special for the community."
Every year the community kitchens serve more hungry people than the year before. But seeing the crowds swell to 1,500 this past Easter was not a good sign to Schlossbach. The amount of people in need, she said, "made me so discouraged about our world."
"Thanksgiving," she said, "is a very overwhelming holiday," she said. But with her staff and whole family serving side by side, "at least we are doing something to make people have a special day. The goal is to feed less people every year."
If you are fortunate enough to already have a place to go, we've got some ways you can be part of the community effort to alleviate hunger and loneliness.