This good news story sponsored by Tyrone Dowden and Staff, 2605 Bayview St., Sebring, FL 33870; 863-385-1546.
LAKE PACID — Golden Corral owners Ray and Claudia Tharp had to close their restaurant at the end of March because of an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis. They took it upon themselves to provide hundreds of free meals to less fortunate every night. The have recently reopened their restaurant at 322 U.S. 27.
With the reopening in early May and the change from a buffet to traditional service, the Tharps would need help to keep up with the sponsored meals.
Kevin Manning and his family decided to share the mantle with the Tharps. Manning is the owner of nearby Seminole Tire Co., Inc. at 624 U.S. 27. Manning has committed to distributing meals at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday until mid-June. The Mannings and Tharps will review the need at that time.
“With the restaurant opening, meal pickup can cause a parking problem. A lot of individuals wanted to help out. There were challenges in different locations because of distance from some neighborhoods to the restaurant. We have people come from Venus and Sebring,” Manning said.
Currently, meals are sponsored by businesses and organizations daily. The cost fills between 150-200 dinners. The food is prepared at the Golden Corral and transported by the catering-style hot boxes to Seminole Tire. Manning said the Tharps are still handling the daily meal sponsoring and the social media aspects.
“We find out about 5 p.m. how many meals we will have each night,” Manning said. “My wife Naomi and our kids and even some employees and the previous owners assemble the meals. I don’t consider it a burden.”
Manning said his shop closes at 5:30 p.m. The volunteer crew close down a bay and disinfect the tables where the meals await pickup. At 6 p.m. the cars come over from the Pizza Hut property and drive through the Seminole Tire’s property. Manning owns both properties. He said that by about 6:11 p.m. 75-80% of the meals are gone. There is a limit of five meals per car. Manning said by 6:30 they have all the meals handed out and the tables disinfected and put away again.
“There is still a need for the meals,” Manning said. “We wanted to contribute to the community as best we could under the circumstances.”
The recent rain has presented some challenges but Manning said they have tents. The company that creates his banners and signs are making banners from the front lawn of the business.