With Thanksgiving looming, "Chef Jeff" Freehof is offering area diners an opportunity to help feed needy families without spoiling the urge for holiday turkey.
The owner of the Garlic Clove Italian Eatery will whip up Italian favorites Monday for the ninth annual Italian Thanksgiving Feast.
"I can do turkey, but why not an Italian twist on it since that's what we are?" Freehof said of his Evans restaurant. "That seemed to be a big hit."
This is the third year that Freehof has opened the Garlic Clove's doors for the event, which raises money for the Golden Harvest Food Bank and Columbia County Cares food pantry.
The restaurant, at 4461 Washington Road in the strip adjacent to the Evans Walmart, will welcome diners from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. For a donation, patrons can enjoy a large plate of baked ziti with meat sauce, pasta with alfredo sauce and chicken Parmesan along with antipasto salad, bread and a drink.
"One hundred percent of every donation given goes straight to the food banks," Freehof said.
The celebrity staff for the day includes Bill Kay, former NFL player for the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers; elected and government officials, including Sheriff Clay Whittle and county commissioners Scott Dean, Trey Allen, Charles Allen and Ron Thigpen; and area media personalities.
"It's a lot of fun," Freehof said.
Sponsors are helping defray the cost of the meal, and servers will donate their tips.
In 2002, the event, then called Turkey Fest, was started by owners of the former Peppermill Restaurant, which was in the same location.
In 2007, Freehof resurrected the fundraiser and raised more than $6,000 for the two food banks. Freehof said he served about 350 meals and raised more than $4,000 last year.
The chef said he'll be prepared to serve more than 500 people and aims to beat last year's fundraising total, hopefully surpassing the total raised in 2007.
"There's some people who can't leave the office, so send someone down and get 10 meals to go," Freehof said, recommending calling ahead for large take-out orders. "We'll have to-go (orders) available."
For information or to place a takeout order the day of the event, call the restaurant at (706) 364-7377.
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