The table centerpieces had been set, the fabric napkins carefully folded, the Thanksgiving dinner buffet laid out. The Shade Tree guests slowly started to arrive.
At the front of the line Wednesday afternoon, a young girl with flower clips in her hair eagerly took in the fall decor, the assorted pumpkins on the table, the aroma of oven-roasted turkey.
“This is a fancy restaurant!” she shouted. “I want to stay here forever.”
Employees from Wynn Las Vegas served about 170 residents at the Shade Tree shelter for women and children in downtown Las Vegas. It was the first time the hotel, which brought its own flatware, tables and chairs, had catered for the organization.
“It brings a whole new meaning of Thanksgiving,” said Stacey Lockhart, the nonprofit’s executive director. “About being grateful, no matter what your situation is. It makes me feel hopeful, and I get all weepy.”
About 30 Wynn employees volunteered to cater the event. Spread across the buffet were roasted Brussels sprouts, maple glazed yams, mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving favorites.
“We wanted to make them feel appreciated, like someone cares about them and how they spend their holiday,” said Julia Greenman, executive director of restaurant operations.
Before the women and children were served, they stood hand in hand as Christine Zack, who sits on the nonprofit’s board, said a prayer.
“I want to say thanks to our friends and our family, and our friends who become family, particularly all of us that are involved in the Shade Tree community,” she said. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Happy Thanksgiving,” the families replied.
At the buffet line, 5-year-old Tarrice Lee trailed his brother, Jaurice, 9, with a plate bigger than his head. The little boy’s eyes widened as mashed potatoes and stuffing filled his plate.
“You got it, baby?” his mom, Todiah Coleman, asked.
“I love the macaroni,” he said as he sat down at the table and shoveled a piece into his mouth. The family of three moved to the valley last year to be closer to Coleman’s mom.
They’ve been at the shelter since September, after Coleman left an abusive relationship.
Now, she’s looking to become a certified nursing assistant in Las Vegas, a job she had before in Des Moines, Iowa.
“They miss the snow,” she said of her kids. “But, I tell them to be grateful. There are people here we consider family; it’s a blessing to be able to eat a meal like this at this time.”