Orlando Rivera, who currently owns and operates International Restaurant & Bakery Equipment, a restaurant supply store on Bradley Street, said he loves being behind the scenes, preparing meals to be served at the Carroll County Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.
This year, Rivera said he is "overwhelmed" with volunteers to help prepare the food for Thursday's meal.
"We've got plenty of people to help us out," Rivera said. "Which is certainly a good problem to have."
Rivera, along with his volunteers, will be preparing the meal tonight and Wednesday, from 6 to 9 p.m. both days. The Thanksgiving meal will be served at the Carroll County Soup Kitchen on Beulah Church Road on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Volunteers to work at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day will be split into two shifts: from 8 a.m. to noon and from noon to 2 p.m.
Rivera, who says he's helped out for 23 or 24 years, said some of the food is donated, while some is purchased separately.
A fellow volunteer, Breck Morgan of Carrollton, said Rivera "gives all his time" to the cause, and should be commended for his service.
"He does it because it's a good thing, not because it gets him any kind of attention," Morgan said. "There's a lot of bad things happening out there, and you never really hear about such a good, humanitarian story."
Eddie Adams, a member of the soup kitchen's board of directors, said Rivera is a valuable asset to the operation.
"He's taken it upon himself to prepare the meal, so it's mostly handled by him," Adams said. "He organizes the volunteers and cooks the food, and uses the soup kitchen facility on the day of."
Adams said he and the other members of the soup kitchen leadership team appreciate Rivera and the other volunteers who make the meal happen every year.
"Most of the people who come in and benefit from the meal are regular clients, so we already have a relationship with them," Adams said. "I know they appreciate it, and we love being able to help these folks out."
As The Lazy Donkey's original owner, Rivera operated the Bankhead Highway restaurant for nearly 25 years. It began as a small gas station with a drive-in window, which Rivera turned into a small bar. The area was a small strip mall, with an Exxon gas station, neighbored by a fish bait and beer store and a Tasty Freeze ice cream parlor. Rivera later converted the fish bait and beer store and the ice cream shop next door into the dining area of the restaurant.
So far this year, from January to October, the soup kitchen has served 9,763 lunches, with the help of 2,790 volunteers.
Adams said he expects around 200 people to show up Thursday for Thanksgiving lunch due to the extended two-hour window of time.