Organizations aim to draw community together with Thanksgiving dinner

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Susie Armijo, kitchen manager at Lighthouse Mission, carves one of 26 Thanksgiving turkeys Monday in preparation for Thursday’s feast at the Lighthouse. Armijo said she and her staff plan on cooking a total of 31 turkeys.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

A nice, big turkey dinner is something nearly everyone, at least those raised in that tradition, longs for on Thanksgiving.

Big community dinners in Clovis and Portales on Thursday aim to accomplish that goal — without embarrassment or shame for those who cannot afford it themselves, according to the organizers.

They highlight the free dinners as something in which the entire community can participate, either as someone partaking of the meal or someone volunteering to work it.

And dinner is available to everyone, whether considered needy or not, according to Portales Community Outreach Thanksgiving Dinner organizer Veda Urioste.

“We all have our hardships. People have their pride, and it’s hard for some of them to come out and eat, but it’s open for the entire community,” Urioste said. “It’s not just for the homeless or poor or someone who’s having a hard time.

“We’ve had people come in who are waiting for family to come from out of town,” she added. “They’ll come in and visit and have a small something to eat before they go in and have their family meal that evening.”

In Clovis, the work of several organizations consolidated four years ago for a community-wide meal held at the Lighthouse Mission.

Richard Gomez, director of the mission, said 200 people were served at the Lighthouse itself and 250 more meals were delivered around town.

“We have plenty of room for anyone who wants to come. It’s not only for people who are homeless or poor. You know, it could be for people who are lonely — those who don’t have somebody to eat with,” Gomez said. “We just all have a really good time together.”

The Portales dinner, staged at the city’s Memorial Building, is a conglomeration of previous Thanksgiving efforts from St. Helen Catholic Church and Central Christian Church.

For the past seven years, the churches have combined efforts and, last year, 400 people were served a turkey dinner.

Urioste said more than 50 volunteers are ready to help out this year.

Much of the work will go toward cooking the approximately 100 donated turkeys — as estimated by organizer Joe Parie — at locations around Portales.

“Individuals bring in the turkeys. We’ve got people who take the time and cook some turkeys for us — and then bring them out there,” Urioste said.

“It’s a wonderful thing; it’s a community effort,” she also said. “Without the community’s help, boy, we probably wouldn’t be able to get this thing off the ground.”

What: Portales Community Outreach Dinner
When:11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Memorial Building in Portales

What: Clovis Thanksgiving Dinner
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday
Where: Lighthouse Mission