Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner delivered, not served, this year

5,500 meals distributed in advance with help of more than 40 organizations

Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner volunteers pivot to provide meals to those in need amid COVID-19 pandemic
Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner volunteers pivot to provide meals to those in need amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAN ANTONIO – For four decades, the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner has fed needy residents on Thanksgiving Day.

Though it has the same mission in its 41st year, it will be accomplished a little differently.

To make up for the lack of an in-person dinner this year, volunteers helped distribute 5,500 cold meals on Wednesday that could be reheated and eaten on Thanksgiving. The meals were distributed with the help of more than 40 partnering organizations, such as nonprofits and senior homes, that came through the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center to pick them up.

While some of the groups that were safely set up to be able to re-plate and distribute the meals themselves got the food in catering platters, most of the meals went out individually packaged.

I think that 2021 will be a little bit better for everybody,” said Raul Jimenez III, the grandson of the dinner’s founder. “And we hope to have the dancing, the laughing. But I guarantee you that behind the mask there’s a smile. And when we deliver the meals, I know it’s going to go a long way for everybody.”

Elevation Ministries was one of the groups to help with the distribution. Lead Pastor Alex Lara and another church member brought back a little over 100 meals to their South Side church for further delivery or pickup.

Lara said the meals would go to people that members already knew needed help, and also those who might come by the stand church members set up on the curb.

The church normally distributes frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving, Lara said, but distributing meals for the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner took the place of that effort this year. Some of the church members have been involved in the dinner for the past few years, he said. So when plans changed for the dinner, the church decided to help.

“You know, there’s a lot of families in distress, and we wish we could help all of them. But we can’t. But we can help a few,” Lara said.

Hot meals will also be delivered on Thursday, as they usually are, but in larger quantities than normal, a spokeswoman said. Meals on Wheels has helped the dinners’ organizers to create routes for the Thursday deliveries.

Still, the total number of meals provided will only be about 10,000 compared to the 25,000 served or delivered in a normal year, the spokeswoman said.

Jimenez, who actually estimated a lower number of meals that would be delivered this year, sees the bright side.

“With everything that’s been going on, I think that’s a tremendous amount of people that we’re able to say, ‘Hey, bring some hope into their lives.’ I mean, they’ve probably been at home and not really had much contact with people,” Jimenez said. “So it’s just to continue the mission, continue the hope and just share the love and and count our blessings.”


About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.