Written by Erica Meltzer for dailycamera.com
On Christmas Day, the Walnut Brewery closes for a miracle.
Every year — for the past 10 years — the downtown eatery, part of the Rock Bottom Restaurants group, serves up a free holiday meal with all the fixings to homeless people and needy families in Boulder County.
The preparations start two days before, and the dozens of volunteers show up at 6 a.m. on Christmas Day, giving up a holiday with their families, to get ready for the 11 a.m. opening.
There was 150 pounds each of turkey and ham, 275 pounds of mashed potatoes, 12 gallons of gravy, 225 pounds of stuffing and 30 pounds of cranberry sauce.
Each of the 519 guests — from the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, from Longmont’s Inn Between, from
Pam Thom, left, of Longmont, and Bob VonEschen, of Boulder, right, serve up dinner plates during the Miracle on Walnut Street Christmas dinner on Sunday at the Walnut Brewery in Boulder. ( Jeremy Papasso)
Bridge House, from SafeHouse Progressive Alliance for Non-violence and walk-ins from off the street — were greeted warmly and asked if they would like some dinner.This year, there were more guests than usual. The event typically feeds around 450 people.
“We’re proud of how we do it,” said Brion Boyer, general manager of Walnut Brewery, 1123 Walnut St. “Most of the work happens before. Once you open the doors, it’s relaxing and fun.”
Miracle on Walnut Street is one of seven similar events around the country put on by Rock Bottom Foundation, the charitable arm of Rock Bottom Restaurants, which include Old Chicago Restaurants, the ChopHouse and others. The foundation is dedicated to fighting hunger.
Don Lawrence, a Littleton attorney, has played Santa — posing for photos with children and adults alike — at Miracle on Walnut Street for the last five years, starting when his daughter, Jaki Lawrence, worked at Walnut Brewery.
She has moved on, but the pair still come back every year to help with the event.
“This is my daughter and I’s Christmas present to each other,” he said. “You get to give a smile to someone who really needs one.”
“You really learn what the spirit of the holiday is,” Jaki Lawrence said.
Kim Goedl, of Longmont, brought her 8-year-old daughter, Shyanne, to eat at the restaurant.
“We didn’t have the food at home to cook, so it was really nice to come here and get a holiday meal,” she said, as she nursed a cup of coffee and Shyanne ate pumpkin pie.
Shyanne’s picture with Santa Claus sat framed on the table, ready to take home.
“These pictures are really special,” she said. “It’s going to be a good memory for us.”
Outside the restaurant, Melissa McKee held a large basket full of gallon freezer bags containing warm socks, new underwear, toiletries and snacks. She filled more than 100 bags with the help of her sons, Emerson, 16, and Elliott, 12, and brought them to the Walnut Brewery to give to anyone in need.
Dozens of homeless men and women paused to take a bag of supplies that would help make life a little more comfortable.Johnnie Stout, who came to the Walnut Brewery from the homeless shelter, said
Erika Bennett, of Longmont, left, and her daughter Chevali Bennett, smile as they are greeted by Santa Don Lawrence, of Littleton, during the Miracle on Walnut Street Christmas dinner on Sunday. ( Jeremy Papasso)
the food was good, but even more special was the way the guests were treated.”Speaking for the homeless, we have nothing and nowhere to go,” he said. “They fed us like kings and treated us like real people.”
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org