LITTLETON, Colo. – This time last year, Monique White was living in a tiny motel room and looking for work, pining for the Thanksgivings of her childhood when dozens gathered for the holiday feast.
On Thursday, White will fulfill her holiday wish. She has a home and a job, and thanks to an impromptu Craigslist posting, more than 30 strangers are gathering at her house to share a banquet of nine turkeys, four hams, 16 boxes of stuffing and a dozen or so pies.
White, 36, posted a two-sentence invitation on the Internet classifieds site last week. The receptionist at a dentist's office was feeling a little lonely, her two sons spending the holiday with their dad. So she figured maybe four or five strangers would reply to her ad and join her and longtime partner Doug White at their suburban Denver home for Thanksgiving dinner.
Instead, dozens replied. People laid off work. People with no family. People ashamed to bring their children to a charity Thanksgiving dinner at a soup kitchen.
"I thought there was no way I could judge who is worthy of sitting at my table. I have to invite them all," White said, sitting at her dining room table as she went over some of the e-mails.
So all 32 people who responded are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. White's boss heard what she was doing and said he'd pay for the food. A local hotel is bringing over tables and chairs. A professional magician in the area replied and offered to come perform for the kids. National media outlets have shuffled through the Whites' modest town house writing about the unusual offer.
It's a far cry from last year, when the Whites were living in a motel room. They had a long-haul trucking business that had gone out of business. Doug White was working construction; Monique White was still looking. Their holiday got worse when the window in their motel room caved in after a heavy snow, leaving them with little to give thanks for but a soggy mess.
"Last year it was just us two. It was horrible," she said.
Things have turned around. Both are now working, and they've bought the town house. With the economy as it is, the Whites say they're barely making ends meet. But they feel compelled to share what they do have with others.
"That's what Thanksgiving is about: Helping other people out however you can," Doug White said.
He's had little time to contemplate the meaning of Monique's Craigslist gesture. He was busy making the first turkeys, putting one in the oven as soon as another came out. But there's truly plenty to give thanks for over the past year.
"Looking back then to now, it's night and day," Doug White said.
"People need to stop being so worried about me, me, me, my bills, my life. You stop worrying, and look what happens?"