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Evangela Stanley of People’s Choice Kitchen. (Photo: Mary Chao)

Last year around this time, Evangela Stanley launched a “pay what you can” promotion at her People’s Choice Kitchen restaurant at 575 Brooks Ave., which is known for its Jamaican and soul food.

Originally intended to last several weeks to get people through the holiday season and its financial stresses, it proved so popular she has made it a year-round feature.

About 10 to 15 percent of her customers determine their own price, and many others pay a little extra to make up the difference, she said.

But this year, Stanley is taking things a step further.

Starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, she will be giving out free prepared Thanksgiving meals.

More: Free Thanksgiving dinners to be held around Rochester. How you can help

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “There’s so much depression out there,” she said. “There’s so much isolation. People are not able to see their families.”

She is determined to help them.

Last year, she herself was helped in a life-changing way. On the night of Dec. 23, a man tried to rob Stanley’s restaurant in southwest Rochester. He was prevented from doing so by Darnell Wilson, who scuffled with the assailant; Kashbi Sanders later was arrested in connection with the crime. Stanley, who was in her restaurant at the time of the incident, was shaken by the experience, but she reopened People’s Choice at 11 a.m. the next day, saying, “I will not let this stop me from doing what I enjoy doing, which is feeding my community.”

This year, amid the pandemic and thankful for her own good health, her mantra is much the same: “I’m going to help as many people as I can,” she said.

Three or four tables will be set up outside the 19th Ward business (because the city of Rochester is now in an orange zone, and indoor dining service is banned), and meals — including turkey, ham, dressing, candied yams and dessert — will be distributed until food runs out.

Stanley said she has enough for about 150 people and hopes the giveaway lasts four or five hours.

Reporter Marcia Greenwood covers general assignments. Send story tips to [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @MarciaGreenwood.

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