Sandi Digangi has never turned down buying an ad in a parochial school ad book. She has a sixth sense for spotting people that come into her restaurant who look like they haven’t eaten for a couple days.
And while times are tough, she and her soul mate Eddie Memishi—the Big Pappa of Big Pappa’s Mr. Gyros—are thankful for having an income even if it means putting in an 80-hour week
This year, Sandi and Eddie are again opening their restaurant on Christmas Day and will be serving and delivering free home-cooked turkey dinners for the homeless, unemployed, seniors or anyone else who may be alone this Christmas. Last year they gave out over 700 turkey dinners.
Local residents are invited to come to Big Pappa’s Mr. Gyros and pick up a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings—no questions asked—to take home to the family or eat at the restaurant.
Unfortunately, food donations are down this year, and Sandi and Eddie are still in need of donations of pies and frozen turkeys. They can use some volunteers to assemble dinners, cut pies, make salads and deliver meals.
“Donations are very low this year,” Sandi said. “Our suppliers are telling us that donations are down.”
So far, 57 families in Oak Lawn have requested the Christmas dinners. The couple will continue accepting referrals for those in need of meals and holiday cheer from residents, churches and organizations until they run out of food on Christmas Day.
When they close the restaurant on Christmas Eve, the couple plans to spend the whole night preparing 20 turkeys and mashing a hundred pounds of potatoes. Between money from their own pockets and donations from the community, they plan to serve and deliver over 1,000 turkey dinners.
Frozen turkeys and other donations can be dropped off at Big Pappa’s Mr. Gyros at 10806 S. Cicero Ave. anytime during business hours between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. In addition to food, Sandi and Eddie are also requesting toy donations to give to families with children.
Sandi has always spent Christmas volunteering at homeless shelters, partly stemming from her own personal tragedy. In 1995, Sandi’s 5-year-old son died in a house fire in Bridgeport where she was living at the time.
“I was working a 9-to-5 job and my mother was taking care of him,” she said. “They had one foot out the door escaping the fire, but my son got away from her and ran back inside the house for the dog.”
Firefighters found the little boy inside the ravaged house laying on top of the dog. Her son died days later.
When Sandi went to Blake-Lamb Funeral Home to pay for her son’s funeral, someone had already taken care of the bill. To this day, she donates money to the International Association of Firefighters.
“I do it in his memory,” she says.
To volunteer, make a referral or drop off a donation, call Sandi and Eddie at Big Pappa’s Mr. Gyros, at 708-741-4014.
And the next time you’re in that neighborhood, stop by Big Pappa’s and order some delicious food. Sandi and Eddie deserve it.