Mama Bears in Estancia will be giving away free meals to anyone who wants one on Christmas Day, said owner Kathy Swope.

“There’s no charge, we will take donations if you want to do donations,” she said. “It’s free and it’s yummy. We’re going to have red and green chile enchiladas, and then just kind of make a plate for anybody who wants one.”

She said the plate will also have tamales, beans and rice, cookies, and maybe some other goodies. Swope said she also made meals for Thanksgiving and while she would have been happy with 50 to 75 people, she didn’t know what to expect.

“I made 124 [meals] on Thanksgiving,” she said. “We had turkey and the whole nine yards. It was really, really amazing because we ended up with just like, one piece of bread left over. I mean, I had a lot of turkey left over, but I had one piece of bread left over. One piece. It just worked out perfectly.”

Swope said she came up with the idea to give out free meals because of the loneliness people feel having to be separated from their families because of Covid.

“The truth is, I don’t even know if we’re going to be able to make it to January,” she said. “But there’s so many people that are sad, and I can’t stand that. We do family things at Christmas and Thanksgiving, so I decided that I’ll lighten the load, at least a little bit and give people some food since they’re not getting together with family, at least they can have something. So that’s why. That’s exactly why. And it blesses me too, it really blesses me, and the people that volunteer to help, and I had a lot of volunteers, and it works out.”

Swope said that in addition to all the volunteers she had help for Thanksgiving, her family pitched in as well.

“I had some turkeys and I said to my son, who is my secondhand man at the café, I said, ‘Let’s do Thanksgiving and give it away,’ and he said, ‘I’m down for that.’ So, we did, and then my grandkids took the orders and then I had my sister, and my brother came and helped, and then a local pastor came and helped, and it was really awesome … My grandkids had a blast taking orders, so I think they’re going to take the orders again this time.”

Swope said that although she’s uncertain about the future of Mama Bears, she would probably continue giving free meals out when she could. “I think I would love to keep this up because there’s just nowhere that you can get this, and we’re far away from … Albuquerque where you can get this done,” she said.” But there’s a lot of people that are just lonely and they need something to know they matter and I’m all about that.”

Swope also said Mama Bears does another “pay it forward” program already, where she gives people who can’t afford to eat out free meals, and others pay it forward for those that can’t.

“That’s what’s important to be is being able to help,” she said. “That’s my heart.”

Swope said that she wished more people would come out to visit the café. “Honestly we really, really are suffering, and we need business,” she said.

Mama Bears will be giving away free meals on Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Find Mama Bears on Facebook (@mamabearsnm) or call 505-384-4005.