Candice O�Brien Beasley doesn�t think that anyone should spend the holidays alone.
The 39-year-old Nashville, TN native owns O� Brien�s Southern Diner in Ashland City, about 25 miles from Nashville. She opened the place in 2013, and every year since she�s served a real Southern feast to anyone who comes into the diner on Christmas Day, no questions asked.
She also serves those who can�t make it to the diner, but still need a meal. Along with 30 volunteers, Beasley prepares turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, pie and slices of her homemade caramel cake that�s boxed up and delivered to those who are alone for Christmas, or can�t afford to buy and prepare their own Christmas dinner.
Beasley (pictured below) knows what it�s like to not have much during the holidays, which is why she�s so passionate about making sure others get a warm meal and some company, if they want it.
�It�s hard to talk about, but my grandparents all died within a few months of each other when I was 13,� Beasley told the Washington Post, who was raised by her two grandmothers. �I then took turns living with my mom and my dad (who were divorced), and we often struggled.�
�I know what it�s like to go without food, to have nothing in the house during a holiday time or any time,� she added. �I know what it�s like to have that rug yanked out from under you. It�s painful.�
Beasley said about 25 people showed up to her first Christmas dinner in 2013, mostly truck drivers and widowers.
�It was wonderful,� she said. �To have all these people around me on Christmas Day felt amazing � almost like I was a kid again, enjoying Christmas dinner with my grandparents and other relatives.�
After that, Beasley decided she would hold the dinners every year and it quickly became a tradition for those in her community who had nowhere else to go.
In 2015, Charles Marshal came to the diner after his wife passed away of breast cancer at age 70. It was his first Christmas alone in more than five decades, and he thought he was going to spend it heating up a frozen dinner and watching TV with his cat.
�I decided to give it a try and ended up at a table with three other old guys like me,� recalled Marshal, now 75. �We sat and had dinner together and we all became friends. I went home feeling grateful that Candice had given us all some place to go.�
Over the years, a lot of people who�ve attended the dinners end up volunteering at the diner to help pass out meals to homeless people and those who have difficulty leaving their homes.
�I might load my car up seven or eight times to make deliveries,� Marshal said. �To see the smiles on the faces of the people when they open their front doors makes my whole holiday.�
The dinners have grown so much that Beasley says people start calling in October to get their names on the list for a meal delivery, or to recommend others in the community who might be in need. The hams, turkeys and side dishes she prepares are mostly donated by other businesses or provided by other people in the community who want to see the tradition continue.
Beasley, who is married and has six children, says she celebrates with her family the day before or after Christmas since the day is so busy at the diner.
�My entire family comes out to help, so we celebrate our Christmas either the day before or the day after,� she said. �But we�re fine with that. To us, this is Christmas.�
You probably don’t own a diner, and maybe it’s too late to volunteer at a homeless shelter or a food pantry, but people need help all year long. Why not make a resolution to start making a difference in the New Year? Let’s #StartSomethingGood together.
(Source: images O’Brien Southern Diner Facebook)