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Lefty’s BBQ’s misfortune turned out to be lucky for some less fortunate people, thanks to the generosity of the Waldorf restaurant’s owners.

A fire Sunday forced the restaurant to close its doors temporarily. Owners of the popular Waldorf establishment donated its food to those in need.

Just before 1 p.m. Dec. 8 a fire that started in the hood of a wood grill at Lefty’s extended to the exhaust system, damaging the restaurant’s roof.

It took multiple firefighters from eight volunteer fire departments about 15 minutes to control what the restaurant’s co-owner, LaTanya Holland, said was a grease fire.

Because of the incident, Holland said there wasn’t a place to keep all of the food that was in the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. The electricity to that area had been shut off, she said.

Not wanting to throw out what she estimated to be 5,000 pounds of food such as brisket, Holland said her family donated the food to Prayer of Faith Ministries in Waldorf, which used the donation to feed homeless people and disadvantaged families.

Jane Washington, pastor of Prayer of Faith Ministries, said she was thankful because of all the places the restaurant could have taken their food, it chose her small church.

She said at first Holland indicated that the store had bread to donate, but when Washington arrived to collect the food, Holland said the perishables were still good and she was welcome to that as well.

Washington said she left with a truck loaded with chicken, ribs, yams and much more.

The church was able to feed 31 families and prepare meals for homeless who live in what she called “tent cities” in the county.

Holland said the fire was unfortunate but being able to provide a meal to those who might not otherwise have one was “a real blessing.”

Washington said the donation helped take pain away from families who are entering the holiday season with very little.

Holland recalled being in the restaurant’s office when she heard an employee announce that there was a fire and for everyone to get out.

Staff quickly attempted to put out the blaze with fire extinguishers and called 911.

Holland said that the employees were unable to put out the fire.

She recalled being outside in the middle of the Sunday’s wintery mix of snow and sleet without a coat as were many others who made a quick exit.

She said aside from the quick response from fire departments from Waldorf, Brandywine, Bryans Road, Baden, Hughesville, La Plata and Clinton, she was impressed with the firefighters’ generosity as they offered her and others a seat in their trucks to keep warm.

Jeff Duer, spokesman for Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department, said it is not uncommon for firefighters to reach out to those involved in an incident.

“We take care of people involved in an incident as much as possible,” Duer said.

He said he was glad to see minimal damage from the fire and that no one was hurt.

Damage primarily was to the roof of the building.

He attributed the good results to employees notifying emergency personnel as quickly as they did.

Holland said she was grateful to the volunteer fire departments for their “kindness and generosity.”

Walking in the restaurant after firefighters gave the OK, Holland said one of the first things she noticed was half-eaten meals on tables. She then thought of all the customers who did not get to enjoy their meals; some hadn’t even received their food when the fire began.

Holland said there were two or three families in the dining area, and some people waiting to pick up to-go orders when the fire started.

Holland didn’t notice any customers still around after the fire was under control. She said they all left.

“No one asked for a refund,” she said.

Seeing the half-eaten meals and hearing no complaints from customers wanting refunds brought tears to her eyes.

Lefty’s BBQ is reaching out to those who were eating in the restaurant Sunday to provide those customers with a gift card to pay for the food they didn’t receive or didn’t get to finish.

“We love our customers so much,” Holland said.

Holland said the store will not be able to open for at least two months.

She said she is grateful for the outpouring support form the restaurant’s customers.

Lefty’s has been in business for 25 years. It has been at its current location in Pinefield for 18 years.

gphillips@somdnews.com