By Bruce Larson
Danielle Holm finds herself looking back to her early childhood when someone asks about her Thanksgiving Day plans. “My dinner has been this feast since I was in 6th grade,” she remembers.
Danielle is the daughter of Eric Holm, franchisee of 30 Golden Corral restaurants in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. His company, Metro Corral Partners, headquartered in Winter Park, Florida, has provided the Thanksgiving Feasts at the Salvation Army in Orlando for the last 20 years.
- View slideshow: Helpings from the Heart
Appropriately named “Helpings from the Heart,” the joint effort of Metro Corral Partners and The Salvation Army of Central Florida, will prepare over 25,000 meals this year.
Meals are also available for carry-out or will be picked up and delivered to nursing homes, shut-ins, local churches and other facilities throughout the area.
“Thanksgiving,” Holm explained, “is a time to give thanks for all our blessings.” He added that this is also a time to help anyone in need of food and fellowship.
Holm himself comes from a humble family. He was raised by a single mother who had to work two jobs to help feed, clothe, shelter and care for her family. Holm remembers the family going to the Salvation Army when he was young so they could share in a community Thanksgiving dinner.
Holm started the tradition as a means to give back to the community – the community that he says has helped his company to become so successful.
While the dinner was founded by Holm, it has become a collaborative effort that is supported by the non-profit community, corporations and several local businesses including: Cheney Brothers, MBM Food Services, Bubbalous Bar-B-Que, Pepsi, Harvill’s Produce, Sam’s Gas, One Fat Frog Restaurant Equipment, Universal Studios Orlando, Kem Express, Puff n Stuff Catering and InterBev.
Volunteer officers from the Orange County Sheriff Department are on hand for safety and Sprint provides free cell phone services for those who may want to contact family members but have not been able to do so.
Jason Gronlund, Executive Chef and Senior Director of Culinary R&D for Hard Rock Cafe International, oversees the preparation and cooking of the food. The meals total over 4000 pounds of turkey, 3000 pounds of ham along with plenty of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, corn, pie, fruit and beverages.
Helpings from the Heart is a very personal mission for the Holm family. It is also a blessing for area individuals and families that would otherwise not be able to afford or have the facilities to prepare a full, hot Thanksgiving dinner.
“Speedy,” who lives in a modest motel room in Kissimmee, is planning to take the bus to the feast again this year. He, like many others, did not know the Holm family story. “It shows that he remembers, and I like that,” Speedy remarked.
“Mr. Holm must be a very compassionate and caring person to do all of this for all of us,” Speedy added.
“This feast is a blessing for most people, including myself,” George Johnson of Orlando said. “They care and many of us would not have a Thanksgiving at all if it was not for them. Thanks to Golden Corral for being there for us,” he added.
Scott Michaud, of Orlando, has volunteered at the feast since 2008. He coordinates what he calls his “Gratitude Team,” a large group that gathers under a tent behind the Salvation Army building. Here, people of all ages create cards of thanks and appreciation for the guests dining inside the main hall. Cards are also made to send overseas for the military troops stationed there as a means to remind them that people at home remember them during the holidays.
Michaud receives art supplies donations from area businesses including Michaels, K-Mart, Target and Office Depot.
“It is amazing to see both the young kids and the retired adults create cards with paper and crayons,” Michaud explained. “The joy under the ‘big white tent’ is magnetic and contagious.”
“Golden Corral takes pride in feeding the community every day of the year in its restaurants,” Holm said. “We see Thanksgiving as a way of giving back to Central Florida by providing for those in need.”
The meals will be served starting at 11:00am on Thanksgiving Day at The Salvation Army, 440 W. Colonial Dr., Orlando.
Bruce G. Larson has been writing for several years and has a special interest in the charitable community. He has worked hands-on with many of these organizations and his desire to help others through his writing and photography has helped to raise awareness and revenue for these special causes. He has assisted church groups, homeless shelters, drop-in centers and many other non-profits. He digs into the heart of the issues and brings the emotions of the people to the surface. Bruce feels that once the readers know more about these organizations, they will gain a better understanding of those they are intended to serve. Bruce can be reached at BruceGLarson@yahoo.com.