As a young man newly arrived in the United States from Greece, Thanksgiving was literally a foreign concept for Theo Kakouras.
Kakouras now celebrates the American holiday in a big way, serving up a free Thanksgiving day meal at his restaurant, Theo’s Italian and Family Restaurant in Jonesville from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I came here when I was 14 years old. As I got older and realized what Thanksgiving was and when I was able to give back, I was so thankful and that’s what it’s all about, giving back,” Kakouras said.
This will be the 19th year that Kakouras has hosted the free meal on Thanksgiving day. He said on average he feeds about 400 people in a three-hour stretch.
“That’s a lot of dinners,” he said. Kakouras began some of the cooking over the weekend for Thursday’s special meal.
Kakouras will serve up turkey with all the trimmings; stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, bread, and of course, pumpkin pie, for the free meal.
Other area businesses including IFH, Pepsi, US Foods, Graphics Printing and Swift Realtors also help sponsor the the meal.
The idea for this free community meal came about following a discussion between Kakouras and his friend Keith Combs.
“He was a dear friend of mine,” Kakouras said of Combs. The dinner is served in Combs’ memory.
Kakouras said their main goal for the day is to offer a place for anyone to come and enjoy a good meal on Thanksgiving day.
“Whether they don’t want to cook or be home alone, anyone is invited,” he said. “We see people that really need it and they express their thankfulness.”
He said it’s an event he looks forward to each year.
After he and Combs came up with the idea, Kakouras said, “it took off and it never stopped and it never will, as long as I’m in the business I will keep doing it.”
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.