On Christmas Day at the Original Pancake House in Falls Church owner Jeff Bulman will make a pancake smoothie for several severely disabled guests who are unable to swallow solid food.
They will be among the more than 1,300 visitors who will eat at no cost to them on Christmas morning at the Original Pancake House’s annual breakfast for the area’s disadvantaged residents.
Coats, scarves, hats and gloves will be offered to each attendee to take home, and the 200 or so children who come will each receive a new toy and a book.
Falls Church residents help by volunteering and by bringing in their new (or almost new) coats and gear, and some donate to the cause.
“I just love doing this,” Bulman said. “I’m Jewish and I get all religions coming in [to help] and they are thrilled to do it.”
On the menu are coffee, milk, orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon and – would you believe? – pancakes which are served on plates.
“We use no Styrofoam, except for the kids’ orange juice cups,” said Bulman. “I want them to feel like it’s quite a special day.”
About 150 customers will begin arriving at 8:30 a.m. for the first shift which will last about 45 minutes and is followed by other shifts which continue until early afternoon, and everyone eats. Everyone has a “timed entry” ticket for admission.
Guests sign up for the breakfast at area shelters and homeless centers which transport them to and from the restaurant, and Bulman rents a bus or two to shuttle Christmas Day customers who need rides. “Everyone is invited,” Bulman said.
“It’s quite a happening over here,” he happily proclaimed in this, the thirteenth year of operation.
The restaurant has “a bowl out in the store” for contributions to the event which regular customer make before Christmas, Bulman said, and some donate $100 or $200.
So far this year $800 has been spent to buy hoodies, blankets, fleeces and toys and the Original Pancake House makes up the cash difference needed for purchases.
“We used to get all the food donated, but things have tightened up quite a bit. Eggs have gone through the roof,” Bulman said. A vendor is trying to get him an egg discount.
To accommodate all the winter gear and toys for Christmas Day giving, Bulman rents a storage locker which is emptied on Christmas Eve, and the goods are brought to the restaurant.
High school students will help sort the clothing, including the daughter of Falls Church Council member Marybeth Connelly, Bulman said.
What the Pancake House needs at this late date are musicians or singers who would like to perform holiday sounds and make the event more festive.
This year 75 volunteers have signed up to cook, serve, refill coffee cups, bus tables, clean up and wash dishes, and there’s a waiting list of more who are eager to help.
Key to the successful operation are Bulman’s volunteer managers Risa Sanders, Annie Turner and Karen Bergin.
Sanders began working as a volunteer eight years ago with her husband and son, Zack, who then was in the sixth grade.
“I really fell in love” with the celebration, Risa Sanders said, and she now recruits volunteers, many who return to help year after year as she and her son do. “It’s a really dedicated group.”
Bergin, a social worker by day, has been volunteering about ten years at the Original Pancake House. This year, she said, someone collected 100 pairs of new socks to give away. The whole event “really touches me,” Bergin said.
Every year “goes smoothly,” Bulman said.”It’s just great. I just love seeing everyone come in and enjoy themselves.”
Bulman and his brother have restaurants in Rockville and Bethesda where clothing giveaways and Christmas breakfast are celebrated, too.
Donations are welcome at the Falls Church Original Pancake House at 7395 Lee Highway through Christmas Eve. Call 703-698-6292 for more information.