Last year, when the last of the Thanksgiving meals were boxed up and delivered through the car windows, Elizabeth Frazier and her family sat on the floor of their mashed-potato-smeared kitchen where they had cooked and prepared more than 100 meals, and they felt thankful.
“It looked like a tornado had run through our entire house, and I have never been happier,” Frazier said.
The mom of five decided last year to open up a drive-thru at her Villa Park home for people in need of a Thanksgiving meal, or perhaps just a moment to be surrounded by friendly faces. The day brought such joy to her family, they decided to do it again this year.
On Thursday, the Frazier family prepared and doled out almost 200 meals, packed with all the fixings: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, turkey, cream of corn, pie, stuffing, rolls and a little bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider.
Frazier made everything from scratch, with pots and pans borrowed from friends to make bigger batches. She started prepping days before Thanksgiving, and woke up in the dark morning hours on Thursday to get the bread rolls going before a throng of visitors would arrive by 2 p.m.
Her kids, whose ages range from 4 to 15, helped “every step of the way,” she said, prepping the potatoes, cutting the turkey, running to and from cars to take orders and deliver the meals.
“They want it to be a tradition,” Frazier said.
No stranger to feeling lonely around the holidays, Frazier said she wanted to do something for those in the community who feel “unseen,” like she has felt. Frazier isn’t in contact with her parents, and her husband’s family lives far away, making it difficult to gather together.
“We didn’t have anybody to spend any holidays with, and we usually don’t,” she said. “And, you know, we were thinking, there’s got to be other people that feel this way, that feel lonely and like they don’t have anybody to spend holidays with.”
She posted on community Facebook pages last year to see if anyone wanted to stop by and grab a meal.
“They didn’t have to be struggling financially,” she said. They could come by “if they needed just to see a friendly face and just kind of have some kind of human connection.”
The response was surprising, she said. And through the car windows, Frazier said she learned a lot about her community.
“People shared their stories with me,” she said. “Just some incredible stories of people that were really going through some hard things, and it just humbled all of us to realize that we have it pretty good.”
The Fraziers got help this year and last through donations from Mike Andersen, who owns the Anaheim-based HVAC company Veteran Air. Andersen “just asked for a grocery list,” Frazier said, and an employee of his company picked up and delivered the supplies on Tuesday.
Jeff Hall, who did the shopping, said the purchases included about 60 pounds of turkey breast, 50 pounds of potatoes and dozens of cans of green beans and mushroom soup, among other items.
Andersen, who heard about the Fraziers’ food distribution on social media last year, said the family’s efforts were something he “had to be a part of.”
“It’s crazy times right now and here’s a mother who’s obviously busy with her kids and business as well, and just everyday life, and here she is putting all that aside for her and her family to help others,” he said.
Participating was also a chance to help give back to the community that keeps him in business, he said, as well as continue a tradition of providing service around the holidays started decades ago by his father.
“That’s the other reason why I do this,” he said, “because my dad’s not here to do it anymore and I have some big shoes to fill.” Rick Andersen was killed in an attack at a Corona home in 2015.
Another $1,800 was donated by the Rotary Club of Villa Park for food and supplies. Vito Canuso, president of the chapter, said the club had some extra money in its community service budget because an event it was going to donate to was canceled because of the pandemic.
The Frazier’s idea seemed like “a perfect opportunity to assist locally, with a family who’s just doing a wonderful thing for local residents,” Canuso said.
For the family, the Thanksgiving drive-thru has brought them closer to one another and the community, Frazier said, giving them “a sense of purpose” in helping lift up others who feel alone during the holidays, made worse during the pandemic.
“I honestly feel like we get more out of it than anybody we feed,” Frazier said. “I mean, it just lifts us and makes us feel like we’re making a difference.
“Just seeing them fills our cup more than their’s, I’m sure.”