LYNN — It’s an annual tradition just like, well, Thanksgiving.
Brothers Deli Restaurant opened at 8 a.m. on Thursday as patrons received nearly 1,000 free Thanksgiving meals to anyone who walked in the door.
Owner George Markos, 59, who started the tradition in 1993 and has distributed more than 50,000 meals, said Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without giving back to the community he loves.
“My parents and grandparents taught me by example, they used to bring people home to feed them,” he said. “There were seven of us in the family, but at meal time there was as many as a dozen people at the dinner table.”
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and his new bride, Liz, donned blue aprons and carved turkey and packed giant plates with all the fixings.
“I’m here to serve the people I represent because that’s what Thanksgiving is all about,” he said. “Next to dinner with my family and my Mom’s turkey, this is the best part of the holiday.”
In addition to the congressman and his wife and dozens of daytime volunteers, a crew of more than 100 from the Lynn District Court worked overnight to cook 2,700 pounds of turkey, 1,000 pounds of carrots, and 2,000 pounds of sweet and white potatoes. The tab for the all-day free event, $7,500. Markos won’t accept donations.
Catalina Meono, a native of Mexico, and her brood, Owen, 12, Yubitza, 13, Sergio, 15, and Josliyn, 8 were among the early arrivals.
“It’s a blessing from God,” said Meono in Spanish through Yubitza acting as translator.
Angelina Sholunas and her 9-year-old daughter, Natasha Williams, ate turkey breast and potatoes at a window table.
“I heard about it from a friend,” Sholunas said. “I’ve been struggling lately, so this is awesome.”
Carlos Gonzales, 75, a retired TV journalist originally from Peru, was sitting alone because his family is scattered throughout the region.
“The generosity of the owner is incredible,” he said in between bites of a drumstick. “People like me who are alone are very appreciative.”
Markos, who emigrated from Greece when he was 15, opened his first diner in 1979 on Washington Street in Boston in the shadow of Jordan Marsh, now Macy’s, and the now shuttered Filene’s department stores.
“When I came to this country, I often spent holidays alone and I didn’t like it very much because I came from a big family,” he said. “So, I want to make sure no one in Lynn is by themselves on Thanksgiving.”