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Annual Missoula tradition to return this Thanksgiving

Posted at 3:32 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 11:26:39-05

MISSOULA — A long-time Missoula organization is gearing up to serve hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners after taking an unexpected break last year.

The Goodfellows, which is made up of about 20 community members who give to those in need during the holiday season, have put on a Thanksgiving dinner at a local Missoula restaurant for over 70 years.

That was until last year when they found themselves without a home. Now, thanks to a downtown business stepping up within the last few days, the Goodfellows Thanksgiving dinner is back on.

“It didn’t look like we were going to have an option and we called Nick and Robin Checota at the Top Hat and said, ‘hey, here’s our challenge,’ and they said, ‘let’s do it’,” said the Goodfellows’ John Giuliani .”

After serving Thanksgiving Day dinners for years at 4-B’s, Goodfellows made the transition to Fuddruckers a few years ago. But when Fuddruckers closed in 2019, that left Goodfellows without a kitchen to serve hundreds in the community that counted on them.

Giuliani and the rest of the Goodfellows crew knew there was a need that had to be met," the Thanksgiving meal has been a dining experience for our guests that are in need and we serve 400 to 500 meals every Thanksgiving."

When Checota, the owner of the Top Hat, got the call recently asking if they could help, it didn’t take much convincing.

"They explained the Goodfellows cause to us and we love doing that kind of thing, and we weren’t going to be open on Thanksgiving. We generally are closed but the staff is looking for hours right now and the combination of that with the cause, we thought it was a good fit,” Checota said.

Checota almost immediately reached out to the Missoula City-County Health Department to come up with a plan on how best to serve a few hundred in a short amount of time. And for a business that has worked through a number of events involving large groups of people in recent months, Checota believes they’ll have a firm plan in place soon.

“It’s our hope to be able to have a mix of indoor/outdoor dining, as well as take out. We’re going to run all three and manage the capacity of the room,” Checota told MTN News. “We move probably 250 covers a day through the Top Hat so we have a lot of experience on how to handle that environment, and we’ll have a hostess at the door and we’ll just manage the flow of people so it’s a safe environment.”

While all the details have yet to be worked out, they do know there will be a Thanksgiving dinner at the Top Hat from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Giuliani hopes the Top Hat will continue to host the Thanksgiving Dinner in the years to come.