Drexel & Honeybee’s ‘Donation Only’ Policy Helps Alabama’s Hunger Problem
By Sharelle Burt
Almost 25 years ago, Lisa Thomas-McMillan was working at a local Walmart in Alabama. One day, she saw that one of her customers didn’t have enough money to buy the groceries she needed. Later on, McMillan and her husband Freddie paid a visit to Jefferson Davis Community College, where they witnessed students gathering change to eat food from a vending machine.
Those two instances helped the duo create a ministry to serve those in need. Eventually, it would become the Drexel & Honeybee’s Restaurant, in Brewton, Alabama. As the only restaurant that charges what residents can afford, the McMillans have been a beacon of light to those in need with their “donation only” policy. TN caught up with Lisa to talk about how this genuine act of kindness turned into a thriving business.
TN: How did Drexel & Honeybee’s get started?
Lisa: This is a restart from 2000 when we originally opened Drexel and Honeybee’s as a regular restaurant and closed within the year. In 2002, we started Carlisa, Inc. food bank to help communities less fortunate. At the same time, I missed serving the hot meals to people who either could not afford food or were too ill to prepare food for themselves. As a food bank with no kitchen, all we were able to do was deliver food boxes to people for them to prepare themselves. My heart ached to cook for those that needed it but there was nothing I could do until I could get another kitchen to cook in.
TN: Do you look at yourself as more of a ministry than a business? Why or why not?
Lisa: A ministry, not a business. If we were a business, we would be interested in money more than people. Our interest lies in the people we serve. My husband and I both agree that long as people come in and eat, we will do our best to have food if others donate or not. If we were a business, we could not feel that way. We would have to be thinking about profits. When God puts something in your hands, you know He will take care of your needs. We believe that God uses us to take care of other people’s needs. It feels so good being used by God to help others.
TN: What has been the feedback from the community? Are they supportive?
Lisa: The community has been very supportive! We’ve had gardens grown just for the restaurant, food drives. They love the idea that in our little town, we have a ‘donations only’ restaurant. We get stopped all the time by people telling us how glad they are for the restaurant.
TN: Have you had any famous people come by to eat with you?
Lisa: No not yet. We are hoping to get Guy Fieri from D.D.D. (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) on the Food Network.
TN: About how many meals do you think you’ve served over the years?
Lisa: Over the years, in our other locations including Drexell and Honeybee’s, we’ve probably served well over 200,000.
TN: Where will Drexel & Honeybee’s be in the next five years?
Lisa: We will still be serving Brewton and anyone else that comes our way. When hurricanes hit Florida and people have to leave, we want to be here serving them a hot meal and comfort them. We want to grow with Brewton and be there for our community.