Christmas money buys free meals for hungry customers

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

“It’s my Christmas present,” Betty Brown says of the free holiday meals she cooked for two days and gave out last Thursday to customers at the Minuteman convenience store in Sunset Beach.

For the past seven years, Brown, who manages the store, has taken the money her husband Tom gives her for Christmas and uses it to buy food she cooks to serve customers.

This year’s big day was Thursday, Dec. 20, at the store at the corner of Beach Drive and N.C. 904.

“This is my Christmas present from my husband,” Brown said, showing the table where customers partook of six freshly prepared turkeys, seven hams, four pork loins and venison, with all the trimmings, including pasta salad, 15 gallons of green beans, six gallons of sweet potatoes, dressing and dessert.

“We should’ve done more dressing,” Brown said. “We ran out of it.”

She took the week off, using the first days to stay at home and cook the food.

Besides using her Christmas money, Brown said the cost is offset by proceeds from recycling.

“My customers collect, and I accumulate cans all year long,” she said. “It helps pay the electricity for me for cooking all this at home.”

The Ocean Isle Beach resident spent all day Tuesday and Wednesday last week cooking.

By Thursday, a sign on the door announced “Free Christmas dinner” for customers.

Brown said it’s her “Merry Christmas” to customers.

“They just love it, when you consider in an hour-and-a-half all that was gone,” she said.

Local resident Thurman Gause was among customers who partook of the food. He said he got a turkey sandwich.

“It’s good,” he said, adding he didn’t find out about the free dinners until a couple of weeks ago.

“I’ve got to go home and put it on the calendar for next year,” he said. “Somebody is a good cook, whoever cooked it.”

Brown said a friend of hers baked four cakes and the friend’s husband provided deer meat from hunting.

Local resident Kathy Delaney and her 2-year-old great-niece, A.J. Herring, were among those who enjoyed free meals. Delaney said it was her first time to partake of Brown’s Christmas dinner.

Brown said Plumb Rite Plumbing provided a cooker so she could bring the food and heat it at the store.

Tom Brown put in lots of effort and labor slicing all the meat. Betty Brown said it’s time-consuming and not an easy job, and next year they’ll enlist help.

Betty Brown said she uses her Christmas money to provide the meals because it’s something she wants to do.

“We’ve been married 46 years,” she said. “There’s nothing I really need. All I can tell you is it’s Christmas. Everybody should get together for Christmas. Some people don’t have families and don’t get home-cooked meals.”

She estimates she served “anywhere from 220 to 240” people.

She’ll serve Christmas dinner again next year, too, she said.

Brown said she could relax now that she’s done cooking for another year. She planned to work this coming Christmas Day—another gift from Brown to her employees.

“My employees have families,” she said.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.