Eastword by Jim Jones: If you are hungry or lonely on Christmas, Ranch Grill can help

December 16, 2012 

Thankfully, there always seems to be a place where anyone down on their luck can get a free meal and a kind word on Christmas.

Our Daily Bread, the Salvation Army, and maybe a church or two come to mind.

Did I use the word meal? That doesn't seem to do it justice. The word "feast" is more appropriate. I have covered these feasts from time to time, and they are as lavish as anything in most homes. I'll never forget the grateful looks on the faces of those who line up. They are folks who have suffered more than their share of knock-downs in life.

This year, the crew at The Ranch Grill, 14475 State Road 70 E., in Lakewood Ranch, has also volunteered to help.

"If you are hungry, times are tough, or you are in the need of company of others, join the Ranch Grill for a Christmas Day dinner," says the invitation.

The owners, 1st Choice Industries, and the staff at the restaurant will close the business to paying customers on Christmas Day, and open it up to anyone needing a free meal from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Staff members have decided to volunteer their holiday to help others.

When I heard about this, it struck me as especially generous and noteworthy.

I stopped by and met Ally Dean, the manager of The Ranch Grill, and asked her about it.

The decision is totally in keeping with the culture of giving back at 1st Choice Industries, she said.

Getting staff buy-in was easy.

"They are excited. They all signed up to volunteer," Dean said.

Others have pitched in, too, including Woodland Baptist and Harvest United Methodist Church, which have helped get the word out, and U.S. Food, with donations of foods for the feast.

Hospitality and preparing food come naturally for this restaurant staff. Popular fare is items off the grill, sandwiches and ribs.

But for Christmas Day, a more traditional menu seemed appropriate: roast turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, dessert and more. Sorry, no alcohol will be served.

Anyone who would like to join in with time or donations may call Eileen, Tabita or Allyn at 866-241-0070.

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Many businesses have done good deeds this holiday season. We have daily published an impressive list of them with our "Giving Back" feature.

Everything from being a donor site for Toys for Tots to helping ensure underprivileged families have the makings of Christmas.

Here's another recent good deed that caught my attention because it is a little different.

Pro-Link GLOBAL, Inc., 1813 Manatee Ave. W., and its owners, Lance and Andrea Elliott, have sponsored a shoe drive.

They are encouraging all 63 employees to donate shoes which will be given to the Safe Children Coalition to benefit kids in foster care.

"We collected 206 pairs of new shoes and a bunch of new socks," Christen Gause, manager of business resources, wrote me in an email.

As an incentive, donors get four hours of paid time off to be used on New Year's Eve.

That strikes me a creative way of encouraging good deeds in the community.

Like to suggest a good deed we haven't written about? Let us know.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweetcface fontname="Roman" naxe="0" iaxis="0"/>.

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