A Detroit area restaurant owner doesn’t ask questions when people show up on Thanksgiving Day. Whether they’re homeless, poor or alone, they are welcomed for a free holiday meal.
For the last decade, George Dimopoulos, an immigrant from Greece, has invited anyone without the means or a place to go on Thanksgiving to come eat with him. It’s been a quiet, word-of-mouth affair with about 70 to 100 people stopping by for a meal each holiday.
But this year, someone posted online a picture of a sign in the window of Dimopoulos’ Senate Coney Island restaurant. It read: “George’s Thanksgiving Day Dinner: If anyone is home alone, Come eat with us for free! All day Thurs. November 26th.”
As good deeds tend to do on the Internet, the post spread quickly.
“It feels good what I do,” Dimopoulos said Monday. “The reason I do this, one time I was younger, I was homeless at one time. I remember when I had no food.”
Dimopoulos left his small Greek village when he was 12 years old in search of a better life. He was too poor to go to high school — he didn’t have shoes, or even a pen, he said. So he moved to Athens and took odd jobs at factories, butcher shops and furniture stores, making the equivalent of 50 cents a week.
Then, in 1969, at 23 years old, he immigranted to Michigan, where an aunt and uncle and some siblings were already living. He worked in his family’s restaurant as a busboy and in the kitchen for three years, saving $28,000 to open his own restaurant.
He now owns Senate Coney Island restaurants in several locations. In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a campaign stop at one of them. His restaurant Web site features images of a bald eagle and an American flag.
He’s deeply grateful for the life he’s built in America. For his car, and his home and his job. He embodying the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
“I appreciate this country very, very much. I’m happy to be in this country,” he said. “I enjoy the day so much.”
This year, with all the media attention, Dimopoulos expects even larger crowds. He’s already set up a heated tent that can hold more than 100 diners. He doesn’t want anyone waiting in the cold to eat. He’ll put out his buffet of turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, corn and other fixings for people to enjoy whenever they arrive.
“I don’t ask them if they have the money. I try to feed everybody and make everybody happy. I don’t do this for money; I do this because I want to do this,” he said. If anyone insists on paying, he said, he plans to give that money away, most likely to a charity helping poor children.
He doesn’t think he’s doing anything that any other person wouldn’t do. He just has the means to do it on a much larger scale.
“If someone knocked on the door asking for bread,” he said, “you’re going to give it.”
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