Danny Fulgencio

Norma’s Cafe reaches a milestone this Thursday, the cafe’s 25th-annual community Thanksgiving. The West Davis restaurant first started serving free meals on Thanksgiving to anyone who wanted one in 1988.

Norma’s employees volunteer to cook and serve the food, as diners fill the restaurant and line up for takeout at the back door. Manager Pam Spell says it’s her favorite day of the year.

Server Ione Gamber, who started at Norma’s in 1990, says that one of the first years she volunteered, a woman phoned to see if the restaurant had food left. She told Gamber she planned to walk from Westmoreland with her kids, so Gamber went and picked them up.

“They were so happy just to have food,” she says. “I had never experienced anything like that in my life.”

Last year, the restaurant served about 5,000 people, and Spell says she expects as many as 6,000 this year.