Clinton pizzeria answers call to feed woman living alone on Thanksgiving

Some have spent Thanksgiving alone this year, but many people in Utica and the Mohawk Valley went above and beyond to make sure nobody was forgotten this holiday.

What follows are local stories that show kindness in action.

Tony's Pizzeria in Clinton delivers Thanksgiving dinner

Chicago resident Cody Gregory worried her mother, who lives alone in Deansboro and is physically unable to leave the house, would spend this Thanksgiving alone and without a proper dinner.

When Gregory's brother, who is disabled, could not make it to help, she decided she had to do something.

Gregory started calling restaurants in hopes it wasn't too late to order her mother a Thanksgiving meal.

Many restaurants closed Thursday, including Tony's Pizzeria in Clinton. But that day, the pizzeria's owner, Scott Miller, happened to be in the restaurant. He picked up Gregory's phone call. She explained her mother's situation, and Miller did not hesitate to help.

"I happened to be in checking on things, and I said absolutely, we'll do it for ya," said Miller, who has run Tony's Pizzeria in Clinton for 28 years. "I didn't think twice, it's just, you know, somebody needs food, and we made it. It doesn't matter it's a holiday, if I'm in the building, I'm not gonna say no."

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Miller cooked stuffed shells and greens and included a piece of cheesecake in the order. Michelle Guzman, one of the employees, was also in the restaurant Thursday warming up food for her family. When she heard about the situation, she offered to take the delivery.

"She was so happy that her daughter sent her food on the holiday because she was going to eat cereal," Miller said.

"I can’t explain the relief I felt that she would have a good meal for Thanksgiving," Gregory said. "And the gratitude I felt for him for being so kind and caring to take time away from his business and holiday to make sure she was taken care of."

Local churches, groups prepare Thanksgiving dinners for people facing food insecurity

On Thursday, Utica's Cornerstone Community Church served its first Thanksgiving dinner in partnership with Frank Cotrupe, the owner of The Hub Eatery in Utica. Around 30 volunteers prepared and served several turkeys, stuffing, fried rice, pies and cakes to 100 guests, many of whom experience food insecurity in the Utica area.

Pastor Mike Ballman said there are plans to continue serving holiday meals in the future.

Approximately 30 volunteers served Thanksgiving dinners to 100 guests at the Cornerstone Community Church in Utica last Thursday.
Approximately 30 volunteers served Thanksgiving dinners to 100 guests at the Cornerstone Community Church in Utica last Thursday.

"I think they were really happy to have a place not only to have dinner but to spend some time in a warm place and be with other people," Pastor Ballman said. "As well as serving food, we like to create a sense of community for everyone."

But the community dinners aren't just on the holidays. Pastor Ballman and other volunteers serve dinners every day from 7 to 9 p.m. to make sure that those who don't have a warm meal can find a place of community besides nutritious food, he said.

On Wednesday, staff and volunteers for the Rescue Mission of Utica prepared over 1,300 Thanksgiving meals. Charlie Degristina, owner of Charlie's Pizza of Utica, also collaborated by donating food for the organization's Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

More than 400 meals were served for takeout and dine in at the organization with 900 dinners delivered Thursday.

Local humane societies feed furry family on Thanksgiving

For animal shelters like Anita's Swan Humane Society or the Herkimer County Humane Society, animals are family, too, and they deserve a Thanksgiving dinner.

Gina Werczynski, Vice President of the Herkimer County Humane Society, said the animal shelter prepared whisker-licking turkey for the 35 dogs and 100 cats living in the shelter.

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The Anita's Stevens Swan Humane Society staff and volunteers pampered the animals on Thanksgiving with playtime outside, baths and a special meal that included white meat turkey without skin or bones, white rice pumpkin and green beans for the shelter's 85 dogs, while the more than 200 cats received some turkey and pumpkin.

Michelle, a cat living at the Herkimer County Humane Society, enjoyed some turkey on Thanksgiving this year.
Michelle, a cat living at the Herkimer County Humane Society, enjoyed some turkey on Thanksgiving this year.

Staff members Rob and Hillary Dunn started this tradition four years ago and it has become popular since then, including two years ago, when the humane society's post went viral on social media. The initiative has helped the shelter by increasing adoptions, bringing donations, and raising awareness, Hillary Dunn said.

"They're like family to us and it's sad that they don't have families on holidays, so we just try to make it as much like a home as possible and do something special for them," she said.

Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email her at mariamsilva@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Thanksgiving acts of kindness in the Mohawk Valley