OCEAN CITY – Workers and volunteers at The Original Greene Turtle in Ocean City fed nearly 260 community members in need Tuesday evening at its “Feed our Friends” dinner, setting a new record for the annual event.
Through the partnership of the Worcester County Health Department, Diakonia and Shepherd’s Crook Food Pantry, Greene Turtle officials were able to locate and invite individuals for a warm meal from 5-7 p.m., or until every person was served.
Jackie Lensch, health educator with the health department, said her involvement with the function began years ago through her boyfriend, a general manager at the restaurant, and she has since used her work connections to help support the dinner.
“It’s our way to give back to the community,” Lensch said. “It’s a little pick-me-up for them.”
On average, the event hosts between 180 and 200 guests, but Lensch said this year’s crowd was the largest on record.
“If I had a bigger place, it would probably be bigger,” restaurant owner Steve Pappas said.
Pappas and his employees have hosted the event for less fortunate members of the community since 2008. Instead of the traditional “Secret Santa” gift exchange, the employees decided to give back to the community instead.
“We’ll get them here one way or another,” he said. “We’ll feed them and all of our employees do the work.”
Many of the guests, who were transported in vans donated by Greene Turtle and Taxi Taxi., arrived well before the start of the event. By 5:30, every table on the first floor was full.
In addition to the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rolls, drinks and desserts, Basil Hanlon of Ruth’s Chris provided the roast beef and ham at a self-serve carving station.
“Nobody will leave hungry,” Dawn Hodge, the Greene Turtle’s marketing and office manager, said.
Bruce Young, who works with Shepherd’s Crook, said he has attended every dinner for the past three years and is amazed by the response.
“Down at the Crook, we only get about 40 or 50 people a day, and a lot of these people are not there,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful group of people who are not as lucky as us. Unless you have been on the giving side of this kind of thing, you don’t know what a reward this is. You don’t know how big it is.”
That night, children had the opportunity to take a picture with Santa and were given the opportunity to choose both a small and large toy to take home, courtesy of the Greene Turtle. Afterwards, Pappas provided them with quarters to play arcade games.
With the exception of the added carving station, both Lensch and Hodge said little about the event has changed since its genesis.
“We make sure the people are comfortable and they know what to expect,” Lensch said.
The event is one of many ways the Greene Turtle helps the underprivileged community, according to Hodge, adding the business supports Diakonia on a year-round basis.