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Texas Roadhouse crew serves 100 at Hope House

Texas Roadhouse store marketer Rachel Gordon (right) holds a tray for John Hafford, restaurant managing partner, while preparing food for people at the Hope House in Bangor Tuesday, June 23, 2010. Volunteers from the restaurant staff kicked off Texas Tuesdays, days when they will cook meals for the residents at the shelter. They prepared 100 meals for dinner and hope to make it a monthly event. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre) WITH GAGNON STORY: TEXTUES
By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Dozens of men and women who stay at or receive services from Hope House were treated to a restaurant-style meal Tuesday night when about half a dozen volunteers from Texas Roadhouse turned out to prepare and serve dinner for 100.

In the parking lot outside, Texas Roadhouse managing partner John Hafford was finishing off ribs on a large grill contributed by Maine Equipment Supply.

Inside the Hope House kitchen, other volunteers were getting ready to serve up mashed potatoes, baked beans, rolls with the steakhouse chain’s signature cinnamon butter and other side dishes.

Set out on the tables were the baskets of peanuts that Texas Roadhouse patrons nibble on when they visit the restaurant.

“Everybody here has volunteered their time,” Hafford said while keeping an eye on the grill. “I grew up in Hampden. I’m part of the community.”

Hope House, which opened in 1973, changed hands earlier this month when Penobscot Community Health Care acquired it from The Acadia Hospital, which had owned and operated it since 1999.

The facility, located on Indiana Avenue, not only offers hot meals and showers to homeless drug and alcohol addicts but also provides transitional housing and an array of medical, counseling and other services. It has become a haven for some of society’s most vulnerable men and women.

Hafford said he decided to sign on as a Hope House volunteer meal provider after he was approached by Hope House director Mike Andrick.

“A lot of other restaurants might say they don’t have the time, but when you want to do it, you just make it happen,” Hafford said, adding that for those who stay at the shelter or who come there for meals or showers, a restaurant meal is out of reach.

“They can’t come see me, so I come see them,” he said with a shrug.

Hafford said he and his volunteer crew plan to turn out there every third Tuesday “until they tell me I can’t come here anymore,” he said with a chuckle.

Andrick couldn’t be more thrilled.

“We’re awful happy that they kind of adopted us,” said Andrick, who is working to get enough restaurants, businesses, service organizations and other groups to commit to providing one meal every month to fill each night.

“I had developed a meals calendar and am still looking to fill it,” Andrick said. “These guys have embraced us,” he said of the Texas Roadhouse crew.

Others that have pledged to help include Bugaboo Creek, Angelo’s Pizzeria and Frank’s Bakery, Andrick said.

“It’s the concept of community building,” Bill Wypyski, Penobscot Community Health Care’s director for underserved populations, said. “That’s what we work toward, and it’s the community that keeps our door open to those in need. Keeping folks well is a good mission. It’s good public policy.”

Texas Roadhouse cook Ben Brown said the crew takes part in a number of community events and donates unused food that would otherwise get tossed out to area shelters.

Though not an employee, Brown’s girlfriend, Kara Taheny, also turned out.

“I was a homeless kid,” she said, adding that she lived at Shaw House, a Bangor homeless shelter for teens, from the age of 15 to 17. Now 19, she’s enrolled in college and is studying education and Spanish. Volunteering at Hope House and Shaw House is her “way of giving back.”

Ann Giggey, campus supervisor at Hope House, said the meal was a hit: “Everybody is just chowing down.”

Restaurants, businesses, churches and others who want to help can reach Andrick at 945-5247, ext. 467.

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