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Service clubs plan to serve 1,600 meals
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• WHAT: Free Manteca Thanksgiving meal

• WHEN: Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• WHERE: Mountain Mike’s Pizza, 1120 N. Main St.

Jeff Liotard is prepping turkey the same way he always does for Thanksgiving. 

The only catch is that he’s prepping 200 of them. 

On Monday night Liotard and a crew of volunteers commenced with brining the birds that will be served at the annual community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Manteca Rotary and the Sunrise Kiwanis at Mountain Mike’s Pizza – with additional support from the Manteca Police Officers Associatiion and other local service organizations like neighboring Rotary clubs and Soroptimist International. 

And they’re prepping a lot of turkeys. 

After drawing less than two dozen people only five years ago when the organizations decided to host the event, more than 1,600 meals were served up last year and the demand only seems to be rising. It gives Liotard along with his wife Tevani the chance to turn their restaurant into a place where anybody can come down and partake in what has become a holiday tradition. 

“I know for a fact that the people that we’re serving are either coming down here with family or they don’t have any family and they have nowhere else to go,” Liotard said. “And it’s a chance to come down and enjoy it my style. It’s damn good stuff and it takes a lot of good people to make it all work.”

While the logistics can be challenging, the learning curve for pulling off such a massive feast, however, has gotten easier.

This year Liotard and his crew have abandoned the practice of brining each turkey in a bucket and have instead gone with plastic bins to save space. Preparations for the other food portions now start earlier and have become streamlined to save space in a relatively tight kitchen. 

As a local small business owner there aren’t many days of the year that Liotard gets to take off, and Thanksgiving is technically one where his restaurant is “closed.” His family is also on notice – they’ll spend the evening with family, but morning is reserved for serving the less fortunate and those who don’t have anywhere else to go.

“The three days that I get to take are Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas and this process will start for us (this) morning and my Thanksgiving won’t end until after I’m done eating my turkey after I eat at my sister’s house,” Liotard said. “I do this because I know that there’s a need and I love doing it, and with my family it’s just something that we do together. They know that there are two days that no matter what they’re doing they have to drop it and be here – Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl Omelet Breakfast. And they’ll be here.”

This year 300 dinners will be sent to the Lathrop Community Center in conjunction with the Lathrop Rotary, and 25 will be distributed to seniors at Bethany Home through the Ripon Rotary. Other deliveries will take place throughout the day. 

The community dinner will take place on Thursday, Nov. 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mountain Mike’s Pizza – located at 1120 N. Main Street.