They say a picture speaks a thousand words.
That saying is true at the Nordic Brewpub where the Monticello community gathered Nov. 24 for a special Thanksgiving Day meal.
In the server station of the Nordic Brewpub there hangs a hand-drawn picture.
Featuring a sheep and the words “Breathe. Love. Exhale. Gratitude,” the picture is a reminder of how one should take care of its community, said Jennifer Salk, manager of Nordic Brewpub.
“It’s the most beautiful think I’ve ever seen,” Salk said.
It was given to Salk by a young girl who visited the brewpub Nov. 24 for a Thanksgiving meal.
The girl’s mother had called into the brewpub on Thanksgiving afternoon asking if she could pick up two meals to go, Salk recalls.
“She informed me that she had broken her hip,” Salk said.
The woman couldn’t afford to serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal to her and her daughter because money was tight after surgery to treat her hip.
But the family offered up something that money couldn’t buy.
“My daughter made this for you because she wanted you to understand how grateful she was to have a Thanksgiving dinner,” Salk said.
“It literally melted my heart,” she said.
The brewpub teamed with Monticello Mayor Lloyd Hilgart to hold the inaugural Thanksgiving dinner.
It was an idea born in Jennifer Salk’s upbringing as a child in New Jersey.
“I grew up living with my aunt and uncle who started the first food shelf in Flemington, New Jersey,” Salk said.
Home was an environment where giving back to the community was paramount.
“They believed that everything begins in your own backyard,” Salk said.
With Salk now managing the Nordic Brewpub, its large event space spurred an idea.
“I believe with a space that size- if you own a business- it’s imperative to treat your community the best
you can,” she said.
Salk shared her idea for a community dinner with Nordic owner Zach Barthel.
Barthel, who himself has a deep passion for giving back to the community, was on board immediately with the idea, Salk said.
Hilgart, a regular visitor to the brewpub, came on board to help finance the dinner.
“They put in the time and created the menu,” Hilgart said.
“I did the easy part,” he said, of putting up the funds to make the event a reality.
The collaborators made plans for about 100 meals. They served between 60 and 70.
Many were served right at the brewpub. Seventeen went to deputies and sheriff’s office staff who were on duty Thanksgiving day. About two dozen meals went to the hospital in Minnesota for employees who were holding down the fort all day.
“You have to remember those who have to work, too,” Salk said.
Hilgart noted that the holidays are one of the worst times of the year for people suffering from depression.
He was happy to be part of an effort to create an environment where people could go and be part of a community- a place where they didn’t have to be alone.
There were many examples of how the dinner helped brighten someone’s day.
Hilgart shared a story of a man who was sitting alone at the bar.
“I could sense that there was a dark cloud over him,” Hilgart said, so he went over to visit.
The man was recently divorced and November 24 was the first Thanksgiving he hadn’t spent with his kids.
The man was welcomed into a community at Nordic of people who were seeking not to be alone. In the end, the man at the bar wasn’t alone.
“It was a good thing,” Hilgart said.
Hilgart was also moved by the sight of a young man who was sitting alone in the dining area. A family came over and invited him to their table.
“They said ‘come join us. You don’t have to be alone,” Hilgart said.
Salk recalled another situation that pulled at her heartstrings, as well.
A dad came in with two daughters and they appeared to be homeless, Salk said.
The littlest of the girls came up to one of the volunteers and was telling the volunteer how excited she was to be having a Thanksgiving dinner.
“Thank you so much for giving us all this energy,” Salk said she heard the girl say.
It’s those experiences that reminded Salk of the good she and others were doing that day.
Hilgart said it wasn’t just people coming in for a meal on Thanksgiving that made a lasting impression on him.
It was the volunteers, too.
Many people gave up parts of their own holiday to lend a helping hand to others.
There were some who just showed up to help after hearing about the dinner on social media or by word-of-mouth, Hilgart said.
Salk said the Nordic Thanksgiving dinner was all about honoring a commitment to the community.
Hilgart took it a step further.
“I would rather give at the local level because you can see the results.
On Thanksgiving Day, a group of people set out to serve its community.
“In doing so, it was about making Monticello a better place to be,” Hilgart said.