BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — At Debby Marticio’s house, the phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from those in need seeking a free Thanksgiving meal.
As in years past, the former Ma Duke’s restaurant owner and her family are gearing up to cook 1,000 to 1,500 free Thanksgiving meals with all the fixings, most of them to be delivered in and around the North Shore.
“We have 700 meals already (to be delivered),” said Lisa Mahoney, Marticio’s daughter, who worked for her mother for six years.
Marticio and her family are cooking and serving the meals at the American Legion Post 227 on River Street in Middleton. Meals will also go to people in Beverly, Gloucester, Ipswich, Salem and Lynn, among other communities, Mahoney said. The family has even received a request to make 75 meals for homeless veterans in Manchester, N.H. The Danvers Treatment Center is scheduled to get 150 meals, and the Inn Transition housing program for those in recovery in Peabody will also get meals.
They also plan to deliver meals to homeless families being sheltered by the state in Danvers’ budget motels, Marticio said.
Marticio said plans are to prep the food from noon to midnight the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Cooking starts at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving, and the meals will be served starting at 10 a.m. She estimates she has 100 volunteers to help out, but she could always use more.
“I could use more people for delivery, especially Thanksgiving day starting at 10:30 or 11” in the morning, Marticio said.
One of the greatest needs is cash, Marticio said. She estimates the meals will cost $15,000, and so far, she has raised about half of that. A raffle held earlier this month at the Onion Town Grill netted $800, helping to defray the costs. Her expenses include $2,000 for paper goods, $2,000 for produce, and she may have to buy 40 to 50 turkeys. She estimated it will take 150 birds to feed everyone.
“We need everything, absolutely everything,” Mahoney said.
To help pay for the meals, Marticio has been pulling double shifts at her job at Jimmy’s Famous Roast Beef and Seafood on High Street, which is also helping her with her preparation plans.
Health reasons forced Marticio to close Ma Duke’s last year after six years in business. Her biggest regret when she closed the restaurant was the thought of not being able to provide the free Thanksgiving meals this year, she said.
In the end, nothing will go to waste, Mahoney said. Leftovers are brought to homeless shelters, and leftover cash will be sent to the Disabled American Veterans organization.
“I am honored to be part of it, to be totally honest,” Mahoney said. “When people come together, when the community comes together, it’s amazing what people can do, what people can accomplish.”
“After Thanksgiving is over, I have the biggest relief and good feeling we helped so many people,” Marticio said.
To donate or volunteer, call Marticio at 978-774-0172 or visit http://www.gofundme.com/madukes-thanksgiving.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.