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Downtown Manitowoc cafe gives out over 250 free Thanksgiving meals, provides holiday companionship

Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 24, 2022

MANITOWOC, Wis. (NBC 26) — As an Air Force veteran once stationed in Japan, Lee LeMaster knows what it's like to be far away from home on Thanksgiving Day.

"No friends, no family, and they couldn't speak the native language," she said.

LeMaster now lives on the Lakeshore, and she still isn't around family.

"My family moved to Connecticut, and those who are still alive are still in Connecticut," she said.

On Thursday, she headed to a local restaurant to share the holiday with others. Susie Kay's Cafe in downtown Manitowoc served around 256 free Thanksgiving meals and desserts.

"Turkey, stuffing, some green bean casserole [and] some mashed potatoes," Kelly Reif, the owner's son, said.

"When they started doing that a few years ago, I thought it was wonderful," LeMaster said. "It was a chance for us to meet and gossip."

"Today isn't just about not having money to eat," Reif said. "If you don't have somebody to eat with, companionship is huge. Come on in. Sit down. Have a meal. Have somebody to talk with."

Reif's mother owns the cafe. It's the fourth year they've given out the dinners.

"My mom's success means a lot to me," he said. "The fact that times aren't always easy and she still finds ways to help other people out sets a good example for not only me but my kids."

Susie Kay's also offered take-out and delivery to people's homes.

"With Covid and everything going on, the customer has been great," Reif said. "We're still here. Without them, we don't exist."

After seven years in business, he says Thanksgiving is a chance to take care of a community that has taken care of them.

"The real magic is seeing everybody come together, seeing that people care," Reif said.