Giovannis offers dinner for all

By Nikki Blankenship -

Giovanni’s Pizza on 11th Street in Portsmouth understands that the holidays can be particularly hard for those living in poverty or even those who don’t have family to spend time with while other families gather for a time of thankfulness.

As a result, they are switching up their menu and offering Thanksgiving dinner instead of pizza. The pizza shop will be offering a free hot turkey dinner and various sides to anyone who would like to join in on the festivities. Dinner will be from noon to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

“We started it last year. Last year was our first year, so we decided to make it an annual thing — a community Thanksgiving dinner,” Will Mcwhorter, co-owner of the 11th Street Giovanni’s stated.

Mcwhorter explained that he had thought about doing such a dinner for several years, but the logistics of such a project seemed overwhelming. Then, last year, with all the struggles in the community, it just felt like it was time to bring his thoughts together into a real action that would give back to the community he lives and works in.

Last year’s dinner was such a success that it was quickly overwhelming but in a heart touching way. As more and more people walked through the door of the Giovanni’s last year, they found a family, even if only for the day, and their newfound family was much larger than the traditional family gathering around the table at this time of year. In fact, so many people showed up for the community dinner, Mcwhorter says he is not sure how many people actually took part in the event.

“Last year, we kind of lost count,” he stated. “This year we are hoping for at least the same turn out.”

Mcwhorter estimated that between 250-350 people joined in for last year’s feast. This year’s dinner will include turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans and garlic bread.

“We have a good variety of desserts,” Mcwhorter added.

Everyone is welcomed to attend the community dinner at no cost. Even if the turkey starts to run low, Mcwhorter says they will keep feeding people and offering a loving, holiday atmosphere.

“If for some reason, we do run out, we always have pizza and pasta to fall back on,” he commented.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), holiday depression impacts thousands of individuals grieving over a lost loved one that won’t be around this Thanksgiving or struggling to provide a special holiday for their children. Though the holidays are a time of joy for many, this is not true for all.

“Many people reported looking forward to the holidays as a time of good cheer. The holidays are the time of year when people report focusing more on their friends and on their family. Stress does increase for certain groups during the holidays: those who feel particular responsibility for the family, like women, and those who struggle to find the extra income to afford the holidays, like lower middle income individuals,” the APA states.

Businesses like the 11th Street Giovanni’s help to reduce holiday stress and depression by taking away the stress of meal preparation, the cost of holiday meals and the isolation of being without friends and family. After seeing the lives they have impacted, Mcwhorter hopes to be able to continue offering the community dinner for years to come.

Giovanni’s is located at 1925 11th Street in Portsmouth. For more information, call (740) 355-3922.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.