The Beachcomber Holiday Guide

Sandbox Café, Red Men Lodge Gearing Up to Feed Hundreds for Thanksgiving

By Rick Mellerup | Nov 08, 2019

Surf City and Tuckerton — Once again, two Southern Ocean County establishments will be dishing out free Thanksgiving meals to all comers, as they have for years.

The Sandbox Café, located at 1403 Long Beach Blvd. in Surf City, will be celebrating Thanksgiving by hosting a free community meal from noon to 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28.

It isn’t a stretch to say the Sandbox is celebrating, truly celebrating, Thanksgiving. The excitement and enthusiasm of owner Dana DiSalvio shot through the phone like an arrow though hay.

“Of course we’re doing it again,” she said when asked if her restaurant would have a fourth version of its holiday giveback to the community.

The community meal has indeed become a tradition, with other nearby restaurants such as Scojo’s, the Shore Fire Grill, the Greenhouse Café and Wally’s chipping in. Meanwhile, firefighters and EMTs from the Surf City Fire Co. and EMS volunteered to help out, which made complete sense considering they’re already used to volunteering.

“Our community takes care of us 364 days a year,” said DiSalvio, “and we want to take care of them.”

This year DiSalvio especially thanked Nadia Din in advance. Din is a podiatrist and the co-founder of the Delran-based Kaiser-Din Foundation, comprised of caring health professionals who value innovation, quality and efficiency, and strive to meet the evolving needs of the health profession.

In 2016 DiSalvio and two volunteers fed 40 diners. The next year 40 folks contributed hours, dollars ($1,300 was raised for the St. Francis Food Pantry) or food – and that was good because 176 meals were served. If the number continues its elevator ride up, even more volunteers would be appreciated this year, especially, said DiSalvio, for the second and third shifts.

“The third one is for cleanup,” she said, “so the servers can relax and eat.”

After all, after breaking your back serving others, it is nice to break bread together.

To volunteer, connect with DiSalvio via the Sandbox’s Facebook page or call 609-361-2524.

DiSalvio and her Sandbox crew would also appreciate donations of frozen turkeys, pies, etc., which folks can drop off at the café in the days before the holiday. The Sandbox is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday through Monday.

If the Sandbox Thanksgiving is quickly becoming a LBI tradition, the pre-Thanksgiving dinner whipped up at Tuckerton’s Red Men Lodge from noon to 4 p.m. on the Sunday proceeding the holiday (Nov. 24 this year) is practically an institution. This year’s feast will be the Lodge’s 19th annual event.

Red Men members are joined by the lodge’s women’s auxiliary, the Degree of Pocahontas, and additional volunteers including students from the Pinelands Regional School District to serve up a traditional turkey feast with all the trimmings. And, Lordie, do they serve and serve – the meal usually attracts some 1,500 people.

If you’ve never attended the Red Men’s pre-holiday meal, thinking perhaps that you’ll leave the food for needier people, think again. The day is more than a free food giveaway; it has become a community get-together to welcome the holiday season. The elderly enjoy not having to cook and the chance to mingle with youngsters; divorced parents who know their children with be with the “other half of the family” on the actual holiday get a chance to spend some quality time with their kids; Eleanor Rigby and “all the lonely people” have an opportunity to socialize.

Dozens, nay, scores of turkeys and turkey breasts (white meat always seems to be more popular) are consumed in the day’s four hours. So the Red Men, like DiSalvio, welcome contributions of entire turkeys or breasts. Frozen ones can be dropped off in the weeks before the event, but cooked turkeys, which can be delivered the day of the meal or a couple of days before, are especially prized because the lodge’s ovens are, uh, stuffed as the big day approaches. Desserts, too, are welcomed.

The lodge, located at 143 West Main St. (Route 9) in Tuckerton, adjacent to Tip Seaman County Park, opens daily at 11 a.m. and remains open into the evening if you’d like to help. For further information, call 609-296-1956.

The Improved Order of Red Men is a national patriotic fraternity chartered by Congress. It traces its roots to 1765, descended from the Sons of Liberty, the patriots with chapters in all 13 of the colonies who secretly worked for independence from Britain, most famously disguised as American Indians (thus the organization’s name) as they dumped tea into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party.

— Rick Mellerup

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