Culinary students cook Thanksgiving dinner for abused, neglected children in shelter

120 children of all ages getting special meal while in emergency shelter

SAN ANTONIO – One-hundred twenty children in the St. PJ's Children's Home emergency shelter are getting a very special Thanksgiving dinner. For some of them, it's the first hot meal in a while. For all of them, it's a little piece of much-needed happiness.

St. Philip's College culinary students spent their Wednesday making a massive meal with lots of love. The assignment taught them much more than cooking skills.

"It helps us to be passionate about what we're doing," student Roman Garcia said.

"These kids they come from abuse, neglect. Some of these kids have traveled from Central and South America and go days without food, and when they come through, we feed them lunch; we feed them dinner," said Patrick Costello, chef instructor at St. Philip's. "They didn't know when their next meal was going to come. So when you're doing that, you forget how good you really have it."

Costello turned away briefly to wipe away some tears.

"I didn't mean to get emotional," he said.

Yet every year, it gets to him. It's the reason he keeps going back.

Costello has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for St. PJ's children for 14 of the 17 years the school has participated. He not only gets to bring joy to innocent children, he also gets to instill empathy in his students.

"When you're done cooking and you see those kids, see how excited they are and they come back and ask for seconds, it's great," Costello said.

There is always enough for seconds.

The culinary students make more than 100 pounds of turkey, 15 pecan pies, 15 pumpkin pies, 40 pounds of mashed potatoes, 40 pounds of stuffing and even more sides.

Garcia is a first-year student, but he's been in the food industry for years, and these are the some of the most important customers he said he's had.

"We're willing to be here to do what we can to provide a beautiful and wonderful meal," he said.

It's certain that those receiving the meal will be truly thankful.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.