Debora Ennen woke early Monday, pulled on her favorite tiger-striped blouse and matching heels, flat-ironed her long blond hair and made two wishes: Let me get a job and food today.
Two weeks ago, after a round of layoffs, the 51-year-old lost her sales associate position at Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions.
She'd just received her last paycheck for $44 — enough to fuel her 1995 Dodge Ram and drive to Steak 'n Shake, Red Lobster and the Village Inn to apply for serving gigs.
Then she would visit the Noyes family.
A Salvation Army employee had told her about the family that donates Thanksgiving dinner every year to those who can't afford it. She dreamed of turkey slathered in gravy, and gooey sweet potatoes.
She'd been living recently on groceries from food banks.
Palms sweating, the Largo woman walked into Matthew Noyes' law firm in Clearwater, stepped into the elevator and pressed "2."
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Inside the law firm lobby, Natasha Talbott spotted the brown bags stuffed with food and smiled.
She imagined her family of eight feasting on collard greens and pumpkin pie as the Cowboys battled the Redskins on TV.
But this Thanksgiving, Natasha, 35, will serve other people at IHOP in Clearwater Beach for $4.75 an hour. She and her husband, John, work almost every holiday and save every penny they can to pay rent on their two-bedroom apartment in Clearwater and feed their five kids and new grandchild.
And just when she thought this year's Thanksgiving dinner would come from a couple of tin cans, she heard about the Noyes family.
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Matthew Noyes, a personal-injury lawyer in Clearwater, calls his family's project "Operation Stone Soup." The name comes from an old folktale: A stranger once fed a starving village by persuading everyone to share.
His mother often told the story.
Mary Noyes, a kindhearted and deeply religious former music teacher at St. Cecelia Catholic School, died of cancer in 2003. Her 11 children started the Thanksgiving tradition of feeding the hungry to honor their mother, their role model, who prayed each time she heard an ambulance siren.
Because Mary would have been 84 this November, they donated 84 Thanksgiving dinners to families across Pinellas County on Monday. Each year, the number of donated meals goes up by one to match the age their mother would have been that year.
Matthew's law firm is always home base for the giveaway.
Over the weekend, his extended family — a local brood of about 50 — pitched in to shop for the food.
His sister loaded 84 Jennie-O turkeys from Walmart into her brother-in-law's pickup truck.
His twin nieces helped double-bag the cheese potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, green beans, corn and gravy.
His daughter handed the 10-pound sacks to Debora Ennen and Natasha Talbott, who left the building beaming, moments apart.
In the elevator, on the way down, Debora cheered.
"We're gonna eat!"
Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.