FOLLANSBEE - It's been a busy year for Vito's 2 in Follansbee, but the restaurant's owner said he is happy to be helping the community again with a free dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
Vito "Skip" Cutrone said his restaurant will again hold a community Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.
"Everybody in the Tri-State Area is welcome. We are asking people to call so we have an idea how many to expect," he said.
Those interested in attending should call (304) 527-4440 and say when they plan to attend and how many will be in their group, if applicable. Deliveries to shut-ins also will be offered and those seeking that service also are asked to call in advance.
Cutrone began the dinner a few years ago after attending a community Christmas luncheon held by a local church and being impressed by the turnout.
He said he knows there are many area residents in need and the dinner is a way for him to give back to the community for supporting his businesses for more than 20 years.
But Cutrone also stressed anyone may attend, regardless of financial need. He noted many residents aren't able to be with family on the holiday because they live away while others may not want to go to the effort of preparing a large meal for only themselves.
Cutrone said if anyone wants to make a donation, it will go to the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H Program, a local food pantry; and the backpack program at Jefferson Primary School.
Through the program, members of St. Anthony Catholic Church and others provide non-perishable food for children in need to take home with them in backpacks each weekend.
Cutrone said thanks to the generosity of his food vendors, he doesn't need donations of any food except desserts.
The buffet dinner also will include roasted turkey, baked ham, pasta, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and green beans.
Cutrone said many volunteers, including students from Brooke High School, have volunteered to help his staff, and no others are needed at this time.
Mary Kimberland, who coordinated a community Thanksgiving dinner at Hooverson Heights Church of Christ in recent years, said the church won't hold one this year. Instead she and others from the church will be volunteering at Vito's 2.
She encouraged those who had dinners delivered to them last year to contact the restaurant.
Cutrone said last year's Thanksgiving dinner at his restaurant served 564, including 160 who received the meal at home.
The restaurant recently held a spaghetti dinner that raised $16,400 for the Mozingo family, who lost a daughter and their home in an Oct. 11 natural gas explosion.
It also was among several Follansbee groups that raised $12,400 for the Barrett family, a Newcastle, Okla. family who lost their home to May's massive tornado.
Cutrone's daughter, Kayla, suggested a community dinner after hearing of the devastation there. The effort inspired others to hold events, including a boot drive conducted by the Follansbee Volunteer Fire Department, a chicken roast held by the Follansbee Cedar Lodge, co-ed softball tournament held by the Follansbee Softball League and special collections at local churches.
The restaurant held a spaghetti dinner at the Follansbee Community House, operated a booth at Follansbee Community Days and collected $900 in donations for desserts ordered by its customers in June.
Kayla had learned of the Barretts through a Wellsburg family who had lived in Oklahoma but moved back to Brooke County before the disaster. The Cutrones had planned to send the Barretts the money but decided instead to visit the family for three days in August.
Prior to that, they heard the Barretts praised the city for its support in an interview for a local radio station.
"They said they hadn't received any help from the government but they got help from the city of Follansbee, West Virginia," Kayla said.
Kayla said she and her father enjoyed meeting Brandon and Amey Barrett and their children - Draik, 4; and Addison, 6.
"They took us throughout the path of the tornado and everything that happened on May 20," Kayla said, adding they were awestruck by the devastation it left.
She said the family is building a new house and a safe house where they may seek refuge in the event of a future tornado.
In a thank-you card to the Cutrones and all involved in the fundraisers, Amey Barrett wrote, "We find it more than a miracle that the pieces came together and the wonderful people in your community pulled together to reach out and touch the lives of a family you hadn't even met. How beautiful!
"Our lives were touched. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. A small community can make a difference and you definitely did!"