Raul Jimenez Dinner continues to serve San Antonio community with warm turkey meals 39 years later

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio restaurant owner and businessman Raul Jimenez started a Thanksgiving dinner tradition for forgotten people and a place that could serve as a community dinner table. Now in its 39th year, the dinner is still giving people a warm meal to enjoy and a place where they are welcome every year.

James Whitfield is homeless and lost his sleeping bag, so he walked around all night Wednesday into Thursday until the doors for the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center opened in the morning.

“We don't have to go out and beg somebody for something and then possibly get a no or turned down,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said he’s thankful that he and his newly homeless friend, Elizabeth Holder, didn’t have to go through trash cans to find their meal for the day.

“So nice and warm and giving. This place is really nice. It means a lot to me,” Holder said.

People and families of all different backgrounds and all walks of life come together to enjoy 25,000 meals during the dinner, but most importantly, they enjoy each other’s’ company.

Volunteer Rony Mejia said he loves being part of the traditional dinner because it doesn’t matter where you come from or how much you have, everyone sits at the same tables.

“Humanity still exists. We can do a lot of things together, and we can co-exist,” Mejia said.

Bernice Setles, a working single mother, said the Raul Jimenez Dinner has become a tradition for her and her three children.

“It's 12-hour shifts … Sometimes don't get a day off, so I try to take my days off, take it with them as much as I can,” Setles said about spending time with her children.

Setles said the dinner has lifted a financial burden for her. She said events like the dinner reminder her that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I just try to keep on, look forward and every day is a new day,” she said.

VIDEO: People discuss what they're thankful for at Raul Jimenez Dinner

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