Norma’s hosts a free Thanksgiving meal each year, with flocks of CliffDwellers coming to eat, serve and just spend some time together on the holiday.
452 pounds sliced turkey meat
24 gallons cranberry sauce
500 pounds potatoes
82 pounds English peas
120 pounds butter
400 pounds stuffing
$$$ Your financial support
Shut down your 50-year-old diner to paying customers on Thanksgiving Day. Part ner with local ministries, churches and nonprofits. Enlist support from food-service distributor Ben E. Keith. Plate with the help of a dedicated volunteer team. Serve to North Texas residents in need of a good meal. Feeds 3,200 – or, even more with your help!
Every Thanksgiving, Norma’s Cafe takes a break from dishing up its signature biscuits, pancakes and chicken-fried steaks to prepare a holiday feast for Dallas’ hungriest citizens. General manager Pam Spell says the tradition began almost two decades ago when the eponymous Oak Cliff eatery shut down to share turkey and dressing with 500 hungry CliffDwellers.
Last year, Norma’s and the same, 18-year-strong team fed more than 3,200 from the diner’s front and back doors – and they expect an even bigger crowd this year. “When I leave here on Thanksgiving, I’m exhausted – but I can’t think of a better way to spend the holiday,” Spell says. “People walk in, they come in buses, and they’re so happy to have a hot turkey dinner. Most people bring their plates in and sit with people they don’t know. Black, white, Hispanic, all sitting together and smiling.” Norma’s also offers “to go” service for some diners. “We pack it up for the road for some of our homeless customers,” she explains. “They really need the food, and many of them are just not comfortable coming inside.”
Over the years, Spell and her volunteers have been touched by everyone participating in the annual feast, but one incident, in particular, left its mark. “A few years back, we had this lady come in and say she wanted to eat, but she didn’t have any money,” she recalls. “We told her it was fine, it was OK, we were serving everybody — we didn’t want her money. The next year, she came up and handed me a turkey. She said, ‘You fed me last year when I really needed it, and things have turned around for me some this year and I want to help somebody else.’ Then, she handed me a turkey. I’ll never forget it.”
Spell urges CliffDwellers to drop by the restaurant at 1123 W. Davis by November 22 and donate to the holiday event or to the North Texas Food Bank. “With more money, we could help so many more people,” she says. “You’d be amazed at how far we can stretch a dollar — and it takes so little to make so many people happy.”
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