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Families enjoy Fort Myers restaurant’s complimentary Christmas Eve lunch

Volunteers at a restaurant in Southwest Florida served up 1,000 meals on Christmas Eve to anyone who showed up, no matter his or her circumstance. Those meals were donated by the restaurant’s owners, who have also struggled to operate their small business during a pandemic.

We told you about the effort Salty Papa’s Shrimp House in Fort Myers would undertake to serve others during Christmas Eve, and community members who benefited shared their thanks Thursday.

Like so many people, Stacy Ruckers lost her job during the pandemic in 2020. Unlike many others, she is a mother of seven children. She told us she found out about Salty Papa’s Christmas Eve lunch when she saw our story.

“I’m very grateful about it,” Rucker said. “Yes. I had to let my husband know, so we could come over here because it’s food we didn’t have. It’s food we didn’t have to cook and his health that worrying about and stuff like that. It’s less stress on us.”

It’s less stress on Sherry Miles, who also saw our story. She and her family drove from LaBelle in Hendry County to enjoy a meal at Salty Papa’s.

“I was like, ‘Food and candy and Santa?! I’m going,” Miles said.

Miles told us too many nights she worries where her family will find its next meal.

“We go to the food banks, and the amount of people that be out that be showing up for the food banks and things,” Miles said. “It’s amazing how many people are in need of food. I really do appreciate it myself for my family because it has been a tremendous help for us.”

Salty Papa’s co-owner Marc Arnett told us this was the least he could do for Christmas. He welcomed everyone. He turned no one away.

“I keep thinking of the phrase it’s better to give than to receive,” Arnett said. “You see some of the kids that come up, and you see some of the families that come up and to be able to offer them a meal. I get more out of this than anything else.”

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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