If you live in Ellendale, North Dakota, you might recognize the feisty 95-year-old named Art. He is known to stroll around town stopping at local businesses, frequenting Fireside, the local restaurant, and charming anyone he meets with his no-nonsense quips.
One of his regular stops is Choice Financial, where Front Line Specialist Julie Carter and Branch President Jeff Petersen have developed a friendship with him. Recently, Julie and her husband saw Art at Fireside shuffling across the restaurant carpet with his walker. They assumed he was making his way to the buffet — but no, he said, he was on a straight shot to the bar. Another day, Jeff was driving his pick-up down the main road and saw a lone walker in the middle of an intersection. When he saw Art at the bank, Art said his walker had fallen out of his pick up. The two went back to return it safely to his home.
But this November, just before Thanksgiving, the two had a different interaction with Art. He came into the bank to exchange some money. They chatted a bit — he lamented one of his fingers, which was crooked due to an injury, making it difficult to put his gloves on. Then when Julie asked what he was doing for Thanksgiving, the older man chuckled.
“Oooh I have no plans,” he said. “I’ll be at home, probably staring at a wall.”
Art’s wife passed away over a decade ago, and most of his family is out of state. Julie knew this, and hearing he would be alone for Thanksgiving, her heart broke. She recalled how her parents were always quick to lend a helping hand to anyone in the community. And she had an idea.
“I’m going to take him a plate of food,” she said to her team after Art left.
From his office, Jeff Petersen overheard the whole thing. He came out with a $20 bill and pressed it into Julie’s hand.
“If you will take the time to do it, I will buy the meal,” he said.
The two decided to bring Art a meal from his favorite restaurant, Fireside, which offers full Turkey dinners from their buffet every Thanksgiving. They used the extra money to get him a pair of green mittens.
On that snowy Thanksgiving morning, Julie and her husband left their dinner preparations, told their five kids to hold down the fort, and headed to Fireside. The servers there knew what was going on and had the meal already prepared, with extra dessert to boot. They smiled as they packaged it up in a box and handed it over to Julie.
When they got to Art’s house, they knocked, and waited, and knocked again. At long last Art answered the door.
“Why didn’t you go through the garage?” he asked, clearly baffled. Julie laughed.
Inside, the house was straight out of the 1960’s. Art’s wife had had quite the eye for taste — it seemed nothing had been changed in decades.
The three sat at the table and Julie presented the gift.
“We brought you Thanksgiving dinner!” she said. Art looked confused. They opened up each package one by one. There was turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes… “This is just too nice!” Art exclaimed, his eyes widening at the growing meal before him. Green bean casserole, dinner roll, a cup of soup. Dessert included a Fireside special: a chocolate Oreo bar.
Art looked up in awe. “Let me pay for this,” he said. Julie explained how Jeff had paid, it was a gift. They showed him the green mittens too, and helped him try them on over his bent finger.
“That’ll work perfect,” he said, grinning.
At last Art stopped asking to pay. He smiled and shook his head at the grandeur of this Thanksgiving meal.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” he said. Julie said the same. And she and her husband returned home. Julie sent a photo to Jeff, expressing her and Art’s thanks with tears in her eyes.
“It’s hard to think of someone being alone on Thanksgiving,” she said. To help out in any way, she said, is the least she can do.
“In the end, it’s about making one person’s life a little bit better,” she said.