Churches make Thanksgiving dinner community event

By Celena Cordova: PNT staff writer

Six years ago, several members of the community and churches decided to join together to form the Portales Community Outreach. This year, the outreach will be hosting its sixth annual free community Thanksgiving dinner at the Memorial Building.

The dinner began when Veda Urioste, Elvia Garcia and Joe Parie decided to bring their church efforts together.

Before this event, several churches, such as Saint Helen Catholic Church and Central Christian Church, sponsored their own individual turkey dinners. Parie said the idea to join together was sparked after one particular conversation with Urioste.

“I don’t know what happened,” Urioste said. “Everyone decided, ‘Hey, why don’t we try to put it together and have it as a community thing instead of individual churches or organizations.’”

Garcia said 70 to 100 turkeys will be donated for the event, and organizers expect about 600 to 700 people to attend the dinner. Nearly 200 take-out orders had been called in as of Tuesday evening, Garcia said. About 20 different volunteer vehicles will be delivering the meals to the Portales homebound and handicapped.

The meal, which is open to the public, will include traditional Thanksgiving items such as turkey, dressing, vegetables, rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy.

In the past, this meal has fed the homeless, those who don’t have a place to go and those who don’t have the means to prepare a Thanksgiving for themselves or their family, Garcia said.

Urioste said she does not participate for her own wellbeing or to get her name out there, but rather, “I’m just here for the community and to help for whatever needs to be done.”

“We’ve been lucky to do this,” she said. “We’ve got the building and all the volunteers.”

According to Urioste, local businesses and individual donors helped make this dinner possible. A few of the many donors include McDonald’s, Knights of Columbus, Allsups and Quality Sales.

“They’re just so generous this time of year,” Urioste added.

The generosity doesn’t stop with the free community Thanksgiving dinner. Leftovers from the local event are delivered to Juarez, Mexico, where volunteers will serve up about 1,000 meals at Cereso Prison and another thousand meals on the street, along with the word of God.

“You introduce people to Christ, and they find a peace in their life that they hadn’t had any other place, and they welcome you with open arms,” said Parie. “They are just so grateful to have anything to eat or drink, it’s just unreal.”