The Forty Pub offers Thanksgiving dinner on the house to those in need

Matt Russo of The Forty Pub Matt Russo of The Forty Pub shows off a donated turkey which will be one of the many used for Monday's free Thanksgiving dinner in Grimsby this year

This Thanksgiving Monday, anyone that walks into The Forty Pub in downtown Grimsby, between 3-5 p.m., can eat a free Thanksgiving dinner, no questions asked.

For many local households, putting a spread on the table this year may not be as easy as it has been in the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious economic impacts, affecting many residents in West Niagara.

“Most people are in a worse situation than they were last year at this time,” said Mark Wood, owner of The Forty, a mainstay eatery on Grimsby’s downtown strip. “I’d like to think that as long as there’s still a roof over my head and food on my table, that means that I should do something to help others regardless of my own personal situation.”

This isn’t the first time Wood has offered his business’s resources to support the community. Earlier this year, his restaurant also offered free meals for kids. He’s also been a key contributor, and often organizer, for many charitable community events in the past.

Brainchild of a pub patron

But the idea for this free Thanksgiving dinner didn’t start with him. It was sparked by Gary Edmonds, a frequent Forty Pub patron.

Wood and Edmonds have worked together on community projects before. Wood told Niagara Info that Edmonds can always be counted on to help out his community. “Gary has always been there to support and donate whenever we’ve done fundraisers in the past,” he said.

Edmonds reached out to Wood to ask if The Forty was doing anything special for Thanksgiving this year. He opened up the dialogue that led to this Thanksgiving dinner offer. Once they arrived at the decision, the challenge was on, and the duo didn’t have much time to prep.

An event of this scale requires significant planning. Supplies need to be purchased. Volunteers are needed to help prepare and serve meals. There’s also the need for funds, of course, to purchase the food.

COVID-19 has made some of these obstacles a little tougher to tackle since the plan was concocted. “COVID-19 has created a supply shortage…The fact that we’re now in the midst of Thanksgiving, many items are just not available,” said Wood.

Everyone gets fed

But Wood said he is not worried. Supply shortages won’t be a problem. “If we do such a good job on Monday helping people out, that we blow through the Thanksgiving food, we’ll still make sure everyone gets fed,” said Wood. “I’d like to say it’s turkey dinners all day, but there’s a finite amount of turkey in the building. If there’s a lineup out the door, we’ll find a way to make sure that anybody that needs a meal gets fed.”

With regards to any other challenges they’ve come up against, Wood said they’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response they’ve received from the community. In a very short time, they’ve amassed the funds, supplies, and the team they need to pull off Monday’s dinner.

“It’s nice that people are obviously paying attention to what’s going on in the world these days. And that there might be a few more people in need more than there is usually this year,” Wood said.

Donations of funds and food are still being accepted. Any extra will be set aside and used for a future event that will also benefit the community.

The only challenge left is spreading the word. “We reached out to GBF, some local women’s shelters, and the town…anyone that might be able to help us get the message to the right people,” said Wood. Most importantly, the people who need to know about the dinner need to be aware that it’s happening.

So what’s needed most right now is to share about this event. Community members must know that if they are in need of a warm meal on Thanksgiving Monday the door is open at The Forty Pub. It is located at 10 Main St. West in Grimsby.

The event will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Anyone who would like a meal is also asked to make a reservation. Call The Forty Pub at 905-309-4040. This will help the restaurant gauge how many meals to prepare for. It will also help keep people safe and socially-distanced during this time.

This is the first time the restaurant is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for those in need. If it is a successful turn out this year, Wood said, it will likely become an annual tradition.