BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — Thanks to the community’s generosity, the lights were back on at Ma Duke’s yesterday as owner Debby Marticio of Danvers plans to reopen today.
She was not only getting ready to serve her regulars, she said, but also preparing to feed hundreds with a free meal on Thanksgiving.
To defray the cost of hosting those meals, All Saints Episcopal Church on Holten and Cherry streets is holding a spaghetti supper on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
“I’ve been here today doing all the prep,” Marticio said yesterday from behind the counter of her restaurant, at 139 Maple St. Her biggest challenges now are letting people know she’s open and arranging to prepare the Thanksgiving meal for those in need. Community donations helped defray the cost of the meals, which last year ran $10,500. She also counts on volunteers to prepare, serve and deliver them.
“Now we have to get it out there, we have to get people to start volunteering for Thanksgiving.”
Danvers Electric, a municipal electric utility operated by the town, shut the power off to the mainstay on Oct. 22. Town officials have said that, while unfortunate given Marticio’s generosity, the shutoff was a measure of last resort after the eatery fell six months behind on its electric bill.
The small restaurant is tucked behind Lyons Ambulance just off Danvers Square. For the past six years, Marticio and her two employees, her daughter and husband, have served free Thanksgiving meals. Last year, Ma Duke’s served nearly 1,000 free meals to homeless families living in motels, housebound residents, young people struggling with substance abuse in Danvers and those living in transitional housing in Peabody, plus anyone else who needed a meal of turkey with all the fixings.
“I can’t do it without everybody’s help,” Marticio said.
The town coordinates Ma Duke’s efforts with those of Supino’s Restaurant on Route 1, which also steps up to cook free meals for the needy.
Marticio said the community came forward with enough donations to allow her to get the town to turn the power on Tuesday. She had owed about $6,300.
“It was a great feeling when I heard everything start up,” Marticio said.
Marticio has since taken steps to trim her light bills, such as unplugging a freezer and an extra Pepsi display case, and shutting down the pizza oven when it’s not in use. She also plans to change the menu when she reopens, offering more home-cooked comfort foods such as American chop suey, meatloaf, and baked macaroni and cheese in addition to pizza, subs and roast beef, in an effort to attract more customers.
“The balance I have left, we are on a payment plan,” she added.
The restaurant’s name is derived from the nickname Marticio’s children called her growing up: Ma Duke.
“My kids and their friends always called me that growing up,” she said. “They still do.”
Those who wish can contact Marticio at 978-774-0172.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
To help Marticio feed up to 1,000 people on Thanksgiving, All Saints Episcopal Church of the North Shore, the former Calvary and St. Paul’s Episcopal churches in Danvers and Peabody, respectively, will hold a Spaghetti Supper Fundraiser on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at O’Neill Hall at the church, 46 Cherry St. The cost of the meal of spaghetti, sauce, meatballs, salad and breads is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Further donations will gratefully be accepted. All proceeds will go to Ma Duke’s serving of free Thanksgiving meals.