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Westminster restaurant continues tradition of providing free holiday meals to Gateway School students and staff

Maggie’s Restaurant in Westminster helped spread holiday cheer on Wednesday by catering a free holiday meal for students and staff at Gateway School, an alternative high school for students facing long-term suspensions or struggling with learning challenges, behavioral or emotional issues.

Maggie's Restaurant event manager Kim Pisula, left, serves social studies teacher Lauren Ricketts, left, and math teacher Mary Reed during a holiday dinner catered by Maggie's Restaurant at Gateway School in Westminster Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.
Maggie's Restaurant event manager Kim Pisula, left, serves social studies teacher Lauren Ricketts, left, and math teacher Mary Reed during a holiday dinner catered by Maggie's Restaurant at Gateway School in Westminster Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.

The restaurant gave away more than 100 meals of turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing and mashed potatoes to the school’s students, faculty and staff between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., according to Principal Bryan Wetzel.

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Ava Bryant, a senior at Gateway School, said the holiday meal is especially important for students’ mental health this time of year.

“A lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to celebrate at home or they don’t have the money to celebrate at home, so I think it’s really encouraging for the kids to not only get a mental break from their classes but to also see that their community cares and want(s) to help them and ... want(s) them to have a good holiday,” Bryant said.

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Maggie’s Restaurant, located off East Green Street in Westminster, has carried on the tradition for more than 10 years, according to Wetzel.

Continuance of the annual dinner was brought into question in March, when longtime owner Jim Breuer sold the restaurant. Breuer entered the restaurant business 47 years ago at the age of 17 and owned Maggie’s for 30 years.

New owner Thomas Zippelli decided to carry on with the tradition.

“We weren’t sure if it was going to happen again this year especially because of what’s been going on with restaurants and the new ownership … but they took care of us,” Wetzel said.

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Trevor Higgins, Maggie’s general manager, said the restaurant would “absolutely” continue the annual tradition under new ownership.

Jim Clements, a math teacher, said Gateway students look forward to the event each year. In 2020, the school didn’t get a chance to have the dinner due to the pandemic.

“Many students have been talking about [the dinner] since we announced it about a week ago … for some of them this is an important meal that they might not get at home,” Clements said.

Todd Wargo, assistant principal, said staff and students both appreciate the restaurant’s generosity.

“We appreciate Maggie’s coming here year-after-year to help us out and make it an extra special day at school for our students,” Wargo said.

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