Jodi Yanz and her husband, Jim, awaken bright and early each Thanksgiving Day and drive to the restaurant they own in Oakdale, the Bierstube.
There the couple, their three young children and other family members cook turkey, mashed potatoes, corn and other traditional Thanksgiving fare -- not for themselves but for those in need.
"It's such a rewarding thing for us," said Yanz, adding that the family has been offering the free meals for nine years now. "I feel kind of selfish, but it makes us feel good to be able to do that."
This year's free Thanksgiving dinner event will be held Thursday at the restaurant's two locations in Oakdale and White Bear Lake, between noon and 2 p.m. All are welcome and reservations are not necessary.
Yanz says the family views the free Thanksgiving meals as a way to live out their Catholic faith. They attend Transfiguration Church in Oakdale. Besides the Bierstube, other restaurants in the metro have also offered free Thanksgiving meals to those in need who want to celebrate the holiday.
"Every Thanksgiving we would get together with family and just hang out and eat a lot and have fun together. And we felt fortunate we are able to do that. Since my husband owns the Bierstube, we would be able to do something for people who don't have that."
Yanz says in the restaurant's first year of giving out free Thanksgiving dinners, only a smattering of people showed up. Last year, close to 400 participated, and she expects even more this Thanksgiving.
"Every year it's grown," she says.
After the family prepares and serves the free dinner, they all head back to Yanz's home in Oakdale, where they eat their own Thanksgiving dinner and play board games with one another.
"We're blessed that we have family around and obviously the means to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "Some people, especially nowadays, don't have money to even have the dinner."
Rose French • 612-673-4352