By Dennis Seid
SHERMAN – Less than an hour after opening on Thanksgiving morning, Cravin’ Catfish had already given away as many free meals as it had during its annual event last year.
“We were supposed to open at 11, but we had people waiting in line so we opened about 20 minutes early,” said owner Gerald Hegan.
Three hundred lunch plates were being picked up at 11 a.m. by a local church. By noon, more than 600 had been given to other churches and organizations delivering the meals.
It’s the fifth year the restaurant has opened its doors to give away Thanksgiving plates with turkey, ham, dressing, green beans, cobbler and drinks.
“This is something we felt we should do to give back to the community,” Hegan said, adding that the family’s faith and belief have blessed them over the years, inspiring them to share their blessings with others.
And the turnout has increased incrementally every year. Hegan expected to give away 1,600 to 1,800 meals this year, compared to about 1,200 last year. In 2009, about 800 people were served at Cravin’ Catish.
Brothers Wayne and William Tate were among the hundreds seated in the warm dining room enjoying their meal, appreciative of the good company and good food.
“It’s good,” said William, who said they eat regularly at the restaurant. “We came last year and I think they’ve done another good job.”
In Tupelo, Dameione Rogers, who owns the Magnolia Barbecue & Fish restaurants in Tupelo, also was in the giving spirit.
On Thursday, the location on East Main Street also was giving away free lunches.
Manager Annie Traylor started fixing plates of chicken and dressing, ham, turkey, sweet potato casserole and green beans – along with her famous chocolate cake – at 10 a.m.
“I’m following the tradition Magnolia has always done,” Traylor said.
Daphne Buse was appreciative of the gesture, picking up some plates for her family.
“I think its nice,” she said. “I’m a regular customer, and I really appreciate it.”
In Sherman, Margaret Riggins pulled into the Cravin’ Catfish parking lot with her two grandchildren.
“This is such a blessing,” she said. “It shows you the type of people they are to do this for so many people. That’s what Thanksgiving should be about.”