A bite of normalcy: Carver’s offers free meals, connections during coronavirus
Aside from the mostly barren tables, customers stopping by Carver’s Bakery Cafe might not notice the business has been closed for a week.
Scents of bacon, pancakes and coffee linger in the cozy space as owner Law Thyne or any one of his volunteer staff greet people with the question: “Breakfast on me this morning?”
After Gov. Jared Polis closed all restaurants to in-person dining on March 16 in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, Thyne was emotional and unsure what he was going to do next.
What: Free meals at Carver’s Bakery Cafe
When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Sunday
Where: 78336 US Highway 40, Winter Park
Info: Check out the menu at http://www.facebook.com/carverswp
“I knew that take-out options were available, but that didn’t really seem like the way to handle this at the moment,” he said. “I realized that trying to help and support the community that had been so generous to me for the 16 years I’ve owned the place … would be a little more helpful and positive.”
So on March 17, Thyne opened Carver’s with shorter hours and a limited menu available by pick-up. He also decided to offer all meals free of charge, an effort to support the community and those facing hardships right now.
“The initial thought was to provide financial support so that someone didn’t have to pay for a meal, as well as nutritional support for people to know there’s something other than just ramen to get through these times — that they could get a real homemade meal,” Thyne said.
Since offering the free meals, Thyne estimated he serves about 40 people per day, ranging from children who are out of school and people who lost their jobs to Carver’s regulars who weren’t ready to give up their breakfast routines.
One such customer, Sydney Burkhalter recently lost her job as a server when Devil’s Thumb Ranch closed for the season. She was impressed when she saw Carver’s offering free meals to the community, but noted the best part of the service is a moment of normalcy.
“It’s so nice to have a reason to get out of the house and get fresh air,” Burkhalter said.
As Burkhalter waited for her eggs and toast, Thyne came over, introduced himself from six feet away and urged her and her friend to apply for unemployment benefits if they need them. He suggested they try to log in to the website at odd hours, when it isn’t so overloaded with other people out of work.
Interactions like that, conversing with customers, sharing knowledge and checking in have become the driving force to continue the service, Thyne said.
“What this has really become, and what I didn’t understand when we started, is the amount of emotional support we’re giving to people,” he said. “We can add a little normalcy back into our lives again.”
Volunteer Jason Kellogg echoed the sentiment. As a regular employee of Carver’s, Kellogg said he enjoys the social interaction and purpose of serving.
“It’s given me something to do,” Kellogg laughed. “It’s keeping me sane.”
Currently, the staff at Carver’s are working on a mostly volunteer basis, including some new faces who joined the effort after losing their restaurant jobs, but generous donors are supplying some funds.
While meals at Carver’s are free, should a customer have the ability or desire to pay, Thyne is splitting all donations 50/50 between his volunteers and the Grand Foundation’s emergency fund.
So far, people have donated over $2,000 to be split between the volunteers and the fund.
“To know that we can be a conduit between supporting the community and helping out has been unbelievable,” Thyne said. “It’s been so much more than I thought, I had no expectation that we would be able to raise that.”
Thyne has also received almost $900 from the Fraser Valley Rotary Club for operations so that he can continue serving meals daily through April at least. He added that anyone wanting to donate to the operations fund for Carver’s should do so through the Rotary Club.
“That will allow me to extend this, hopefully throughout this entire time, but it just depends on how many customers we get,” Thyne said. “We don’t plan on stopping this anytime soon.”
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