Community Thanksgiving dinner keeps growing

By Alisa Bowell: PNT staff writer

Elvia Garcia started the Portales community Thanksgiving dinner almost 10 years ago with help from her family and community volunteers.

The dinner Thursday at the Memorial Building is free.

“My husband and I decided that we needed to do something for the community as a family,” Garcia said. “It brings me and my family so much joy to do it. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Garcia said the city contacted her in 2002 to make her Thanksgiving tradition a community-sponsored project and the Portales Community Outreach Thanksgiving Program was born.

Since then, Garcia said anywhere from four people to 600 have shown up. The festive occasion grows larger every year with more volunteers and more community members coming in for the meal.

The outreach program prepares and serves food to anyone in the community who wants to come. Volunteers also offer a delivery service for those who are homebound, and families who cannot afford a Thanksgiving meal can come pick one up for free and take it home.

Garcia said volunteers also sing and play music. A local man, Smokey Ball, bakes pies for the event every year.

Garcia said she cooks eight turkeys a day for a week before the event.

Garcia said helping with the event each year has been an amazing experience.

“People who have no one get to come and meet the people of Portales and get to know them,” said Garcia. “This gathering is Portales. It’s like one big family getting together to celebrate. It’s inviting.”

Garcia said the community pays for the dinner with donations of all the food, supplies and money.

Joyce Davis of Portales has volunteered for the event for the last four years. The program also sends food to the Prison Ministry in Juarez, Mexico, and Davis said she went to Juarez two years in a row to serve dinner there as well.

“It’s a neat opportunity to work with people you don’t normally get to work with and to visit with people who come in to eat,” said Davis, who also works for Habitat for Humanity. “Everybody seems to be very appreciative of the effort.”

Other volunteers who head up the event are Veda Orieste of city hall and Joe Parie.