Henderson’s Restaurant owner Whan Jung is working hard to honor the spirit of the restaurant’s original owner, Jerry Henderson, who opened his restaurant every year on Christmas to serve a meal to those who needed it most.
After Jung bought the restaurant, he decided to keep the tradition.
“Jerry had a big heart,” Jung said. “About 10 years ago, he started to feed the homeless on Christmas. We continue to honor that tradition although we expanded it to include the elderly and single soldiers. Anybody who needs a meal is welcome.”
Jung said the meal is paid for by contributions from customers and Performance Food Services, his Temple-based supplier. He said the meal feeds about 400 people annually.
“We donate whatever is left over, usually cash, to the Salvation Army,” Jung said.
The traditional Christmas meal of turkey and stuffing is served by volunteers from Lifeway Fellowship Church. Preparation for the meal begins months in advance.
“Henderson’s provides the food, and we provide the volunteers,” Robin Mather said. “We made almost 500 gift bags this year with blankets, socks and caps for those who need help staying warm and toys for children. It takes about six weeks to put it all together. We will start planning for the next one in January or February.”
For many people, the meal at Henderson’s is a way to feel warm and welcome on Christmas. Retirees Suzy and JR Perrine are two of those people.
“It made Christmas better,” JR said. “We’re by ourselves without any family in town besides my sister, and she had to work.”
“It makes us feel like part of the community,” said Rose Mary Pereira, who came in for the meal with her husband, Guadalupe. “We were by ourselves today.”
“A lot of people would have had to go without,” Guadalupe Pereira said.
Ronald Steadman, Jerry Henderson’s nephew, sat in the corner booth that used to be known as “Jerry’s Table” with other family members. He comes to the meal every year to honor his uncle’s memory and accomplishments.
“I miss him a lot,” Steadman said. “I’m glad the new owner decided to keep the tradition alive. It makes me feel good, and I know my uncle is looking down and loving it too.”