It was dark and it was cold and it was Thanksgiving Day.
Marry Garcia had packed her children, 10-year-old twins Eloisa and Abdias, in the car and taken them downtown. A friend had told her about a Thanksgiving dinner held by the Union Gospel Mission for what Garcia calls “unfortunate families,” and she wanted her twins to have Thanksgiving dinner – a treat she couldn’t afford on her own.
“We got a parking spot so easy, right there, but there was nobody around so I started getting a little worried,” said Garcia, who’s a single mom. Worry turned to despair when she saw the empty halls; she had no backup plan and no way to pick up a last minute turkey dinner on the way home.
Not ready to give up, she decided to head over to the Doubletree Hotel next door and ask someone there for directions to the dinner.
“The front desk person pointed me toward Spencer’s, and I thought that place looked way too fancy and expensive,” said Garcia.
Carri Davidson, assistant manager at Spencer’s steakhouse which is inside the Doubletree Hotel, greeted the family while staff at the front desk worked the phones trying to find the Thanksgiving dinner they were looking for.
Garcia’s heart sank when she realized what had happened:
“For some reason our friend who told us about the dinner had gotten the days mixed up – we were a day late.”
By now it was around 6 p.m. and Garcia had no Thanksgiving dinner plans, no money in her pocket and two hungry kids in tow.
“I was so embarrassed, I thought ‘Oh, are you kidding me,’ but we were too late,” said Garcia, who’s a part-time student at Whitworth University, where she’s studying for a bachelor’s degree in counseling.
That’s when Davidson stepped in and escorted the family over to Spencer’s Steakhouse and seated them in a big booth.
“She brought us silverware and glasses and napkins,” said Garcia. “And I said, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, but I have no money to pay for this,’ and that’s when she said not to worry about it – that it was all taken care of.”
Soon heaping plates of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole landed on the table in front of the baffled twins.
“I was trying so hard not to cry in front of the kids,” said Garcia. “We were treated as if we were people paying for an expensive dinner – they kept asking, ‘Is everything OK?,’ and they kept waiting on us. I’ve never had better service in my life.”
Davidson said there was no doubt in her mind about what she had to do.
“Here they were and they thought they were on their way to Thanksgiving dinner and there was no dinner,” said Davidson. “They were such a nice family. Honestly, they made my day, they made my Thanksgiving. And they were just like any other guests in the restaurant that night.”
Garcia also has a 17-year-old son who’s a senior at Lewis and Clark High School but was with friends on Thursday. “It’s been a hard, tough life raising the kids alone,” she said.
Her oldest son struggles to stay in school, and the twins have support through Children of Promise, a mentoring program for children with an incarcerated parent.
“I try to set a good example with my own education, but I do a lot of things, I juggle all the time,” said Garcia, trailing off. “It was such a privilege for my kids and I to have that dinner.”
Her son, Abdias, was so amazed by the restaurant that he took pictures of everything with Garcia’s pocket camera.
“He took pictures of the silverware and the wine bottles on the shelves and the tables and the food,” said Garcia. “He just couldn’t believe it. I just tried to enjoy the looks on their faces – I could never have afforded that dinner.”
Garcia’s daughter Eloisa found just the right way to express how they all felt.
“She said, ‘This is a blessing from God; we are going to have dinner with Jesus, because this is from God,’ ” said Garcia. “We were just at the right place at the right time, and the mixed up dates was just a blessing from God.”