Seville Quarter is a Florida nightclub located inside an old cigar and tobacco warehouse. It feels frozen in time, with rustic brick and wood fixtures and wrought iron details, giving it a feeling that a little piece of Bourbon Street was loaned to the quiet beach community of Pensacola, FL. Each night the club opens their seven separate entertainment areas which are bustling with college students dancing, crooners belting out karaoke songs, and dueling pianos battling for dollar bills.
But then there is Thanksgiving Eve.
For 25 years, the Mitchell Family, who own Seville, along with their staff and volunteers set out on an ambitious endeavor to cook 100+ turkeys. These are then distributed to multiple organizations from Catholic Charities to the Council on the Aging and a few shelters. Then these organizations deliver the turkeys, along with all the fixings, to those in need
We set down with Buck Mitchell, who shared stories throughout the years of the amazing impact this has had on the community and how it started. The program was birthed out of two cooks who asked if they could use the kitchen located inside the club to prepare their own turkeys for Thanksgiving. The cooks discovered that one of the waitresses couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving meal for herself and children. They purchased an extra turkey and surprised her that night with a full Thanksgiving spread.
The next year, they purchased five additional turkeys at the request of Doug Mitchell, the oldest of the Mitchell brothers that currently own and manage the facility.
Buck said in a whispered tone, “My brother Doug is a saint for doing all of this. One year, he was closing up and had his own turkey for his family when someone arrived late. ‘Are they closed! I didn’t get my turkey.’ And you know what Douglas does? Gives her his turkey and showed up with a frozen one at 8PM shrugging his shoulders. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Volunteers from the Mardi Gras crew the Mystic Mafia arrived at 8am Wednesday to begin preparing the meals in an assembly line. This was their 5th year participating.
What truly makes the program remarkable is that it is just about giving to others with no need of return. Buck Mitchell said, “when we first started, we used to go hand out the meals ourselves. But it felt like too much, just showing up into people’s homes like that. That’s when we partnered with agencies who knew those in need, who had relationships with them.”
After a long morning of frying and smoking turkeys, assembling packages with stuffing, fruit, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, cookies, and mints, trucks begin to arrive from the different agencies. The meals are fully prepared and cooked so that even if the family doesn’t have access to cooking equipment, they can instantly enjoy their meal.
Now, hundreds of bellies will be full Thanksgiving Day, all because a family and their friends chose to continue a tradition built out of love for their neighbor. That’s a good story to tell.
Nathan Monk’s new book, Charity Means Love, addresses many of our cultural blind spots in how we give. Order your copy today!