Volunteers serve up Thanksgiving meals in memory of slain employee

Circus Family Restaurant serves up more meals in memory of slain employee

lbonner@newsobserver.comNovember 23, 2012 

Zinith Barbee walked from his house to the Circus Family Restaurant on Thanksgiving afternoon looking to buy a hot dog.

He got a free Thanksgiving meal instead.

In fact, the meals were free for anyone who made their way to the Wake Forest Road restaurant – and for some who didn’t.

A corps of volunteers delivered hundreds of meals to the elderly, people waiting at the bus station, homeless people and anyone else they could find who otherwise would not have enjoyed a turkey dinner.

This was the seventh year the restaurant has offered the meals in memory of LeRoy Jernigan. Glenn Mitchell hired him to clean the exhaust hood at the restaurant, and Jernigan was killed during a robbery there in 2006.

Offering the meals honors Jernigan’s spirit of generosity, Mitchell said.

“We wanted to do something in memory of him – do something nice to do away with the evil that happened that night,” Mitchell said. “LeRoy was all about taking care of people and helping them out whenever he could.”

That’s how Barbee, 57, ended up with turkey and mashed potatoes instead of hot dogs and a milkshake at his neighborhood restaurant.

“I wouldn’t have done anything for Thanksgiving,” he said.

And, owner Mitchell said, “I get more out of it each year we do it.”

He gets plenty of help from members of his church, Northside Community Church in Knightdale, and from the South Raleigh Civitan Club.

Mitchell started cooking turkeys on Monday, and Civitan Club members peeled and diced 300 pounds of sweet potatoes on Tuesday.

Dozens of church members show up every year to cook, serve and deliver food.

Robin Herier of Knightdale teamed up with Josh Mitchell, the restaurant owner’s 16-year-old son, and Delani Bodette, 8, to deliver meals to elderly people living in apartments on Six Forks Road.

Cecil Wilson, 73, was glad to see the team arrive.

Wilson said he never would have cooked such a big meal – corn, stuffing, green beans, potatoes and pie – just for himself.

Herier, a new church member, said she was glad to have a place to volunteer in the morning, because she would not see her adult daughters until Thursday evening.

“This really lifted my spirits,” she said.

Delani watched volunteers deliver meals last year.

This year, she helped carry the Styrofoam towers, and read out meal recipients’ telephone and apartment numbers for Herier.

“I’m happy because I get to meet new people and serve,” Delani said.

Bonner: 919-829-4821

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