Community continues tradition

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

For countless American generations, Thanksgiving has been known as a time of feasting and sharing. For the last three years, the Portales community has also been able to work in a little bit of cooperation.

The Memorial Building, for the third year, played host to a free Thanksgiving dinner during lunchtime hours. The event, which took days of preparation and ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., provided nearly 400 people with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

“It was a huge turnout,” said Elvia Garcia, one of the meal’s organizers. “We had a lot more deliveries (this year) than last year.”

Garcia and fellow organizer Joe Perry said about 200 people came in for a sit-down meal, while another 200 requested meal deliveries.

The nearly 50 volunteers picked up food items to prepare in advance — the one oven at the Memorial Building couldn’t possibly handle cooking 32 turkeys and side items like stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, vegetables and desserts.

Volunteers at the event did various duties, from Smokey Bone baking pies to John A. Gibson giving people musical accompaniment with a piano in the lobby.

As she and volunteer Veda Urioste prepared a batch of stuffing at 1 p.m., Garcia said the biggest spike in attendance was a little bit after noon, with nearly 100 people in attendance.

“It’s really a community thing,” Garcia said. “It’s not just the individuals, but the businesses that put (effort) towards this make it happen.”

The event had 12 sponsors, all listed on oversized pieces of paper and used as table settings.

Though there are many churches in the sponsor list, the idea first culminated through two churches — St. Helen Catholic Church and Central Christian Church.

Perry said the two churches had each done a similar event individually, but he felt that joining forces was better for the community.

“I think we do more,” Perry said. “We have it at the Memorial Building so people don’t feel like it’s a religious thing. You do more than with two (organizations) doing the same thing.”

When the meal ended, the giving didn’t stop. Volunteers loaded up some leftovers and planned a weekend trip to Juarez.

“There’s a little church we like to visit,” Perry said. “We’ll have a soup kitchen for all of the neighbors. That way, we don’t have a problem taking care of the leftovers.”