SAN ANTONIO – Volunteers were hard at work in the kitchen at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center Monday morning, preparing for the 35th-annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner.
The tradition, started by Raul Jimenez in 1979 in an effort feed just 200 people, has flourished over the years. This year, 25,000 people are expected to attend the free dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
"My father always wanted to do things bigger and better so I know that he is smiling down from heaven," said Patricia Jimenez, daughter of late Raul Jimenez.
The tradition has blossomed from a family tradition to a community tradition.
This year, a call for 4,000 volunteers was answered within a matter of days. There were so many volunteers, many had to be turned away.
For many, the volunteer effort has become a holiday tradition. Elena Ortiz said she has volunteered for years.
"I've had a rough upbringing and I know what I didn't have when I was a little girl so being able to give back is awesome for me," she said.
The effort requires a lot of teamwork, as well as a lot of food.
The list includes 9,400 pounds of turkey; 6,250 pounds of stuffing; 6,250 pounds of green beans; 650 pounds of gravy; 4,688 pounds of yams and cranberry sauce; 25,000 dinner rolls, and 3,000 pumpkin pies.
It takes months of planning and days of preparation but the labor of love has a big payoff, ensuring those who are less fortunate can enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
"It's great to see in the end, after all the hard work and the hours, the outcome of all the smiles and joy that everybody has," said Gomez.
"My father's philosophy was that we come into this world with nothing, what counts is what we do in between," said Raul Jimenez.
The 35th-annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving dinner will take place at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Thanksgiving Day.