HARKER HEIGHTS — An annual tradition continued Saturday as dozens of people gobbled up hot meals of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls — all for free, to boot — courtesy of Ma’s Place, a restaurant in Harker Heights.

Katie Silva, the daughter of owner Vickie Silva, said there was a line out the door when she came to work, as people waited to get a bite of the meal that began at 3 p.m.

“I came out here about 2:30, and by the time 3 o’clock showed up, our parking lot was full and they were standing outside waiting on us,” Katie Silva said.

Vickie Silva, who opened the restaurant seven years ago in a different location than its current spot on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, said the restaurant has served around 60 to 65 meals in the past. She was confident, however, that this year’s number would top that.

Two of the meals that were given out Saturday were to Ernie Pemberton and his wife, Zenaida. They were visiting family and drove into Harker Heights from Bloomington, near Victoria.

“My daughter lives, like I said, right down the street, and we just happened to pass by it, and I said, ‘You know what, we’re going to go back there and try it,’” Pemberton said, even before knowing the meals were free.

Pemberton said his food was delicious.

“I had the turkey, but it was absolutely the best,” he said. “You could actually bottle the gravy and send it like that.”

A regular of the restaurant — and good friend of the Silvas — ate at a table near the Pembertons.

Jan Coplin, the Killeen resident, said she comes in often throughout the week and said it is good to see her friend serve the community like she does.

“It’s something she learned working at Hallmark (Cafe) under Jerry Henderson,” Coplin said. “They did it, and so when she opened her place, she continued to do it.”

Vickie Silva said the reason why she does it is simply because she has to.

“You’ve got to give back to the community,” she said. “They support you. You’ve got to support them.”

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