Restaurateur giving free Thanksgiving meals to vets wants to say thank you

GREENFIELD - For most people, Thanksgiving means quality time to spend with those closest to us. But for one local man, it's about reaching out to strangers. 

Omar Hamdan will be spending the holiday in service to some local, unsung heroes. He's opening his restaurant, Route 76 Diner on Layton Avenue near 76th Street in Greenfield, on Thanksgiving Day for veterans who will be alone on the holiday, or are just in need of a good meal and some good company. And the best part, it's free!

"We're going to have turkey, stuffing mashed potatoes, corn," Hamdan said. "It's just a way for me to say thank you and give something back. Everyone on my staff jumped up and volunteered to work that day. They moved Thanksgiving plans to later on in the day, so they could be here and be a part of it."

World War II veteran Donald Wolff, 91, felt compelled to visit the diner ahead of the holiday, to say thank you.

"When I heard about this place having a meal for veterans, I thought I have to come here and give this gentleman my business," Wolff said. "I think it's wonderful that somebody thinks of the servicemen. I don't think there's enough respect or help for them."

Route 76 Diner is also collecting non-perishable food and money for the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative, which is helping organize and spread the word about this free Thanksgiving meal. 

"They've defended our country, so I just want them to feel appreciated and not look at it this as a charity," Hamdan said.

The meal for veterans will be offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  You can call ahead to reserve a spot (414) 249-5150, or just show up.  Colectivo will provide coffee and supplies, and some top local chefs are making holiday pies for the event. 

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