Owner of Fort Myers restaurant gives back despite being hard-hit by pandemic

It’s been a tough year for the restaurant industry as a whole. Salty Papa’s Shrimp House in Fort Myers is no exception. But the owner found it in her heart to give to those who are even worse off than she is.

Co-owner Vallee Arnett is preparing to feed her neighbors. They’re making turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and there’s even candy. “Just kinda whipped it together,” Arnett said.

Salty Papa’s is on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, where Arnett said, after seeing long food distribution lines day after day, she knew she had to do something.

“Seeing all that brought me to tears. It really made me stop and think. I have food, I have a big-screen TV, I have a roof, I have a job,” Arnett said. “So many millions are way worse than us. It affected me on a visceral level. I couldn’t not do something.”

She admits that she struggled during the pandemic, too. But she got a helping hand, so she felt it was only right to pay it forward.

“If it wasn’t for quick gathering of capital and a little help from PPE, I don’t know if we would be here, but I really did everything I could to survive,” Arnett said.

While her staff continued to prepare those delicious meals for the community, Arnett thought back to her darkest days during the pandemic. She said there were definitely “a couple tear-filled weeks.”

If you’re wondering who’s invited to the Salty Papa’s Christmas Eve lunch, it’s anyone who needs a nice warm meal.

“No questions asked. It doesn’t matter your circumstance. We aren’t prequalified. We don’t care. Not our business. If you could use a meal, just come down and get one,” Arnett said.

Arnett simply asked that you come, eat and make some friends because she hopes, that will make someone’s Christmas just a little bit brighter.

Lunch will be served at Salty Papas on Christmas Eve from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday in Fort Myers.

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Writer:Drew Hill
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