OXFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – Free Thanksgiving meals are a tradition – to help those who have no family or can’t afford a meal.
In Oxford, though, both the donors and the recipients sit in the same room. At Daddy-O's diner, anyone can come eat on Thanksgiving – no questions asked.
“We don't go anywhere else,” said 97-year-old Myrtle emphatically. “Daddy-O's is the only place to go.”
What was once a small gathering nine years ago now has a line out the door.
“Anybody can come in and eat,” said co-owner Amanda Oullette. “If they can pay something, they donate. If they can't, we want to be there for folks who can't necessarily afford it or if they don't have family, we can be their family for the day.”
Her husband, Aaron Oullette, instructed volunteers before the restaurant opened its doors not to “hoot” and “holler” when people donated. “I don’t want to embarrass anybody,” he said.
The husband-and-wife team never knew how big their Thanksgiving family would get when they opened their shop almost 10 years ago.
Aaron remembers just a few years back. “We had 9 turkeys, and we were excited,” he said with a laugh. “Today, we have somewhere over 35 turkeys that we got donated. This is huge.”
Four hundred pounds of turkey was served. People donate if they can. Some eat free.
The restaurant doesn’t make any money on Thanksgiving Day. All donations are given back to the community, to the town’s heating assistance program.
Daddy-O's diner doesn't only do this on Thanksgiving - the restaurant has monthly community dinners to raise money for food pantries as well.
It's the Oullette's giving spirit that brings people back each year.
“I love it,” said Melissa Brousseau, a longtime Daddy-O’s waitress who came to eat with 19 of her family members. “Aaron and Amanda are the best bosses you could ever have. They do everything for you. Very supportive.”
At the packed restaurant, you could spot babies all the way up to 97-year-old Myrtle. She comes to Daddy-O’s for “the companionship, the friendship, the food, and Daddy-O” himself. “He’s such a nice person,” she said. “We love him dearly.”
The Oullettes are humble as can be, and shrug off all the praise. “We needed a hand one day when we were younger and starting out,” Aaron said. “Somebody took the time and cared for us. We always want to be there for somebody else.”