Donna’s Table

I have countless stories from the past seven Thanksgivings of what Donna’s Table has meant for so many people in our community. Feeding guests a free Thanksgiving Feast at Napa Café on Thanksgiving Day; white tablecloths, candles, fresh flowers, gold-rimmed china and glasses, gold silverware, a whole roasted turkey on EVERY table. A moment when guests are served family-style and can put as much food on their plates as they want, and we keep the food coming – food that Napa Café would serve to our paying guests if we were open on Thanksgiving: brined and roasted turkeys, dressing, gravy, all the casseroles (green bean and sweet potato), macaroni and cheese, fresh organic vegetables served at Napa (roasted baby carrots, peas, green beans, and the grilled asparagus, which is not a traditional Thanksgiving vegetable but is offered it because many Donna’s Table guests consider it an expensive, luxury vegetable). Then there’s the fresh fruit – also considered a luxury food for the homeless and food insecure guests: fresh strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. And let’s not forget the desserts – homemade pies (many guests stay up for days making these pies!): pecan, pumpkin, apple, and cherry pies, plus my Mom’s specialty, banana pudding.

All of this food is served in the dining room with 5-star service by waiters and volunteers where guests are treated like royalty, while in another part of the kitchen, volunteers are packing up special bags filled with full feasts and whole fresh fruit – apples, oranges, bananas, pints of berries – for other guests to take home with them.

Where did Donna’s Table come from?

In 2014, I shook my world up intentionally. I was renovating my restaurant but behind the scenes, I was also renovating my life. I got rid of every person and situation that was no longer serving me in the best possible way. I did this in the most loving way possible, but I also did it in silence. I was the only one who knew and truly just did it as I went along. I did not discuss this with a single person. I knew what needed to be done, and I did not want any outside chatter influencing me. There was no grand plan, but it was a very deliberate and slow process to keep everything in my life as steady as possible so I could keep Napa Café as steady as possible.

The following year, I had one place to go on Thanksgiving and I was home by 3:00 p.m. I was all by myself and started to feel a little sorry for myself. I was especially missing my mom, who passed away in 2006, and I missed her food that would comfort me. I thought to myself, Oh wow, so this is how this feels. It wasn’t the best feeling in the world – I felt empty and numb.

But not to worry- that only lasted about 3 minutes!     

In true Glenda-style (I freakin’ LOVE this woman!), I began to think about the possibilities of what my Thanksgiving could look like. That’s the moment where I decided the following year, I would open my freshly renovated restaurant and feed anyone who wanted a Thanksgiving feast… and it would be free. I visualized Thanksgiving Day like my mom provided me every year: a beautifully decorated table with a special tablecloth, fresh flowers, candles, our best china that we only used a couple of times a year, homemade pies on the butler table, a whole roasted turkey being carved up beautifully (my dad’s only task!), as music and love filled the air. Plus, it was my favorite meal my mom cooked. I would take inventory each year to make sure not one thing was missing. That was my only task. 

As I got older, Thanksgiving came with one other perk – I got to take home the leftovers! So, when I was envisioning Thanksgiving at Napa Café, I just plucked it right out of my own life novel and decided to name it in my mom Donna’s honor (and all of the mothers and families who recreate this tradition every year throughout our country). That’s how Donna’s Table was born.

It’s a day of service like no other. The volunteers also benefit from this event as well.  We are all serving each other. The volunteers serve up a plate of healing to the guests, and the guests offer them a reason to serve. We all experience a healing from God on this day. And I am the one who gets to pull it all together in a whirlwind fashion, of course!

I could tell you DOZENS of stories that would blow your mind surrounding Donna’s Table, like how local businessman Chuck Hutton and other donors got involved, where the volunteers come from, where the guests come from, and the little stories in-between. There is no doubt in my mind and heart that God is at work at Napa Café, and it all happens through me and everyone that helps me – not just Donna’s Table on Thanksgiving Day, but every day to keep me thriving at Napa Café. I say it boldly and confidently. I work for God.