Turkey’s thawing, potatoes have been purchased, gifts are wrapped, apple cider is mulling and the eggnog is chilling. “It’s going be a feast,” says Todd Johns, owner of Wuddup Dog.
“While many of us take the time to spend the day with family and loved ones, the sad reality is, there are many of us that don't have that option,” said Johns.
For the fourth year, Wuddup Dog will be opening its doors and inviting “anyone and everyone who wants to spend the day hanging out watching cheesy Christmas movies and enjoying a delicious free meal.”
From 3pm until 8pm, on Christmas day, Johns and his elves will be handing out free meals to anyone who stops by as well as gifts for the kids.
Wuddup Dog opened up in August of 2015, in Preston. “I ran a hot dog cart for a few years and wanted to put one on King Street, for the late-night bar activity, but the BIA doesn’t allow them in the core,” recalls Johns. “My father was murdered in 2014. After the lawsuits were finished, I used the money I received to open a bricks and mortar hotdog stand.” At first, he operated with just a takeout window and a small kitchen. “After three months I acquired the unit beside me and built a dine-in area. Three years later we moved to our current location.”
Johns realized there was a need in the community, especially during the holidays. A Wuddup Dog Christmas was born. “You may be asking yourself, who the heck wants to eat gourmet hotdogs and deep-fried desserts on Christmas? That's why we will be serving up deep-fried turkey, stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes, candied yams, corn, and pumpkin pie or apple pie for dessert,” he says.
He says he gives back because, at the end of the day, we are all neighbors. “This community has allowed me to do what I love and provide for my family, so giving back to them directly is the least I can do.”
His goal is to make sure no one is alone or hungry – no questions asked. “Whether it is an elderly person in a senior home, a couple whose kids are gone and won’t be home for Christmas, homeless people, or even someone who, like myself, doesn’t celebrate this particular holiday,” all are welcome.
Visitors will be greeted by a warm, welcoming, judgement-free environment.
“They can expect to see myself, volunteers and people enjoying their meal - laughing and carrying on like we've known each other forever,” said Johns. Presents are wrapped and ready for any children that come. There will even be a special appearance from Santa himself.
"The turnout gets bigger every year. This year we are preparing for upwards of 200 people.”
To him, the true meaning of Christmas is simple. Be nice, be kind, let others know you love them and that you care – and this extends to the community that has surrounded him and contributed to his success.
When asked what he gets out of this, he says, “this is a learning opportunity for my daughters. Sure, the presents are cool, but there are more important ways to give and sometimes giving to complete strangers is the best gift you can give yourself.”
The response that Johns has received from the community is, at times, overwhelming. “I receive messages from people, almost daily, that make me teary-eyed. Especially the day of the event.” He says the priceless moments are the hugs he receives from complete strangers.
The free Christmas dinner runs December 25 from 3pm – 8pm. Donations of new, unwrapped, toys as well as Walmart and No-Frills gift cards will be graciously accepted. “Due to Public Health regulations we are unable to accept food donations of any kind as we cannot guarantee how they were stored or transported.”
Find out more here.