When Old Chicago Pizza started serving the homeless on Christmas back in 1996, the kitchen churned out turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes. They handed out toiletries and essentials. But in the past year,restaurant employees/elves have revamped the giving event into something entirely different: a holiday pizza party.
This Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Old Chicago's downtown Boise location on West Idaho Street invites all in-need individuals and families to come enjoy free pizza, pasta, cookies and pie. Much of the day's energy is geared toward the children, with the Rose Room located above the restaurant transformed into Santa's workshop—which will feature free pictures with Santa, games, toys and a stocking to decorate and fill up.
Ken Helmig, the general manager for the downtown Boise location, has been with the restaurant since 1997. He said the restaurant is planning for 1,300 people to come through the doors on Dec. 25.
"We made a commitment to make a difference in our community and I feel like every year, we actually do," he told Boise Weekly.
In all, Old Chicago estimates it's served more than 132,000 holiday meals to families in need.
Helmig said the number of families fluctuates throughout the years. The most people who have ever come in on Christmas was 1,400. Last year was their lowest year, at 900. He said he's still expecting a line around the block come 10 a.m. Christmas morning.
The event is put on with the help of more than 100 volunteers. Helmig said his phone is ringing constantly with more people wanting to volunteer, but they can't accommodate any more help.
"I bet we could get as many volunteers as we could guests," he said.
To help spread the word about the free meal, the restaurant partnered with Boise Rescue Mission, Lighthouse Rescue Mission, City Light Home for Women and Children, Interfaith Sanctuary Housing Service and CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries, Inc.