TAYLOR – A movie about TV’s Fred Rogers’ debuted in movie theaters around the country this week. Rogers always opened his show with the song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” His neighborhood was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but miles away in little Taylor, Arizona, Kenny and Judy Rogers – no relation – invite anyone who would like to be their neighbor in for their free annual Thanksgiving breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
This is year five for the event. “The first year about 30 people came – friends and family and then neighbors started coming,” said Judy. “I took invitations around one year with directions, but mostly the people that show up say they heard about it by word of mouth. Last year people walked in off the street. Ninety percent of the people we do not know.”
“One of the first who showed up last year was a guy who said, ‘I saw a sign and just moved in the area and didn’t know anybody,’” explained Judy.
“I don’t remember why we started it,” she said. She does, however, recall her experience as a young girl growing up in the small town of Prairie City, Oregon, and why she and Kenny decided on a breakfast rather than a lunch or dinner.
“The family would get up at 4 or 5 a.m. and start cooking,” remembers Judy. “You would have to get up at 3 a.m. if you wanted breakfast because you had to get out of the kitchen. So, we decided on breakfast so as not to interfere with anyone’s lunch plans.”
The first three Thanksgivings they held it inside their house. They would move all the furniture into the bedrooms but as more people came, the last two years they moved it to their heated garage with a cook stove and two grills.
Wanting the garage to feel like home, Kenny made a roll up door and then a door facade. The garage door rolls up and then the wall with the door latches inside and people can actually walk through a door. “It takes about 10 minutes to slide the wall inside the frame of the door and put in the bolts,” explained Judy. “It’s a gathering place.”
They decorate to the nines, proudly serving everybody like family who comes in. “We have bacon and eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, hash browns, coffee, tea and hot cocoa and cereal,” said Judy, “and this year we are adding an omelet bar.”
Thus far, the largest number of attendees is 73. “If we run out,” said Judy, “we just send out and get more.”
One of their neighbors who came last year said she wanted to help and this year she gave them 15 pounds of sausage.
“Last year my brother-in-law joined us,” said Judy, “and we added another grill.” She and Kenny also built a lovely patio off from the back of the garage this year for overflow. They will also use it for family reunions.
Both Kenny and Judy are from small towns. Kenny was born in Prescott but his family moved to Taylor when he was just 8 months old. His family lives all around he and Judy. He is a mechanic at Alvarez Auto Center in Snowflake which is where he and Judy met in 2002 when she was also employed there.
Judy is a medical assistant at the Imaging Center in Snowflake and is into Arabian horses. Her dad was the mayor, not once but twice, of that small town she grew up in. She said he was a logger and trucker who had six kids to raise, and he brought home anybody he found along the road for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Asked how long they plan to continue this annual event, Judy replied, “As long as we can.”
So, this year, like the last five in Taylor at the Rogers’ home, it is a “beautiful day in the neighborhood,” thanks to Kenny and Judy Rogers. And, like Fred Rogers said, “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors – in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”
Judy’s motto, strategically placed throughout their home is, “Live, Love and Laugh.”
Ask anybody around Taylor where the Rogers live and they most likely can tell you, but if not, Thanksgiving breakfast is being served at 425 N. 100 West.