The 10th Annual Thanksgiving Feast and charity fundraiser is returning to Chuck's Fish in Tuscaloosa next week, with a few COVID-era adaptations to the model.

Anyone can grab a full holiday meal to-go from Chuck's next Thursday, although only to-go -- the restaurant is suspending dine-in this year to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Guests can grab enough food for the whole family and the meals are completely free, although donations are encouraged and all proceeds go directly to Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa.

Ellen Potts, the Habitat's executive director, said the annual Thanksgiving Feast began around 30 years ago at the Harbor Docks Chuck's Fish in Destin, Florida. It was brought to Tuscaloosa in 2010 as part of a project in a service-learning class she taught at the University of Alabama.

Every year since, Chuck's has provided free meals on Thanksgiving to anyone who seeks them.

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"In the past, we've fed everyone from bank presidents to homeless people," Potts said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for the community and all of its members to get together -- although this year obviously it will be a little different."

The biggest departures from tradition are the takeout-only format and the lack of pie -- Potts said Chuck's is aiming to have the entire meal in one to-go box and there just wasn't room to include dessert this year.

Potts said the Feast fed almost 2,000 people in 2019 and raised more than $15,000 for Habitat for Humanity. This year, that support is more vital than ever, she said, as the pandemic caused the cancelation of other fundraising events and caused major corporate donors to reduce or suspend their support.

The Thanksgiving Feast is so good for Habitat because the nonprofit doesn't have to spend a dime on it -- Chuck's provides the food and oversees its preparation and distribution.

"It's amazing to see and Chuck's is just so generous to do this year after year and to donate all of the proceeds because Habitat is responsible for nothing," Potts said. "It's a fundraiser that costs us nothing and 100 percent of any donation we get goes straight to our mission of providing a decent place for people to live."

Potts said she hopes to see high turnout again this year as COVID may prevent families from traveling for the holiday.

"We are hopeful that people will give and give generously, but there is no obligation," Potts said. "You can show up and get a meal and not pay a dime and just take the stress of cooking a Thanksgiving meal off your plate entirely.

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