Restaurant hosts annual community dinner

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

El Rancho Restaurant is reaching out with Christmas turkey and posole once again this year.

The restaurant is continuing its tradition of serving a free Christmas dinner for the sixth year.

The meal is free and open to anyone.

“We just get all kinds of people from all walks of life and all cultures,” El Rancho co-owner Joey Garcia said. “It’s really something beautiful to see and something to be a part of.”

Joey Garcia said the dinner will be the same as in the past.

“We always have new faces that come volunteer,” he said. “That’s about the only difference. It’s the same good food and good time with friends and family that come out.”

The menu includes a turkey dinner, plus Mexican favorites such as posole and red chile.

Besides opening their restaurant, the Garcias try to deliver food to senior citizens facilities were the residents might not be able to get out. Joey Garcia said the family would do so again this year if they have enough people to help.

The tradition started in 2004.

“We have such a large family ourselves, and when we get together for Christmas, we actually have to run up to the Memorial Building every year,” Joey Garcia said. “And God really put it on my heart to share that with other people.”

Ruben Garcia, Joey’s father and El Rancho co-owner, said the family feels the community has given them so much support in keeping the restaurant in business, they wanted to give back.

Last year, Joey Garcia said, about 400 people came for dinner. Joey and Ruben Garcia estimated they cooked about six hams, the equivalent of eight turkeys, 10 gallons of posole, 60 pounds of mashed potatoes and 30 pounds of corn.

Since numbers have increased every year, the Garcias expect between 400 and 500 people Friday.

Joey Garcia said his family is the nucleus of the effort to put on the dinner, but other local volunteers help. Once an Arizona resident came to lend a hand after eating at El Rancho the previous Christmas.

“The Lord’s always provided,” Joey Garcia said.

Ruben Garcia said relatives and the restaurant’s food vendor, Ben E. Keith Foods, donate some items for the dinner.

Joey Garcia said the family does their best with the meal.

“We try to use the best food that we can and put a lot of love into it,” he said.