Thanksgiving in the Barrio event helps 400 families in need on West Side

Cost of feeding fewer in need was higher, organizer says

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church hosted the 13th annual Thanksgiving in the Barrio on Monday. The West Side tradition is rooted in the area with one of the highest poverty levels in the city. The event provided groceries for a Thanksgiving meal, complete with all the trimmings, to 400 families.

SAN ANTONIO – Inflation dealt a double whammy to Thanksgiving in the Barrio, hitting its donors and the families it serves.

The 13-year tradition is rooted in the West Side, an area with one of the highest poverty levels in the city.

“We were faced with having to raise more money because of inflation,” said Ernest Martinez, son of the event’s founder, the late labor leader Jaime Martinez.

Martinez, now the chair of the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation that sponsors the annual event, said the cost of feeding 400 families, 200 fewer than usual, “exponentially increased.”

Martinez said donors told him, “We can’t give as much as we’ve given in the past or couldn’t give it all.”

Thankfully, he said, others came through at the eleventh hour for the sake of those like Marisol Guardiola.

“It’s just an incredible thing,” Guardiola said. “God bless everyone that’s doing this. Thank you.”

After her husband fell ill and was hospitalized at the beginning of the year, Guardiola said neither of them has been able to find work.

Rene Garcia, who is recently unemployed, said he was trying to find a church where he could try to start a soup kitchen. Yet on Monday morning, he was in the drive-thru set up for Thanksgiving in the Barrio to provide a holiday meal for his own family.

“I always keep in mind that it gets tougher before it gets better. So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to get there,” Garcia said.

Married for 44 years, Alfredo and Margarita Leija were also in line to receive a bag filled with all the fixings to prepare their Thanksgiving meal and an H-E-B voucher to buy a turkey.

They said they were encouraged to see many young people volunteering.

“God bless them for what they’re doing,” said Margarita Leija.

One of them was Sarah Tijerina, who is in her 20s. She credits her education, upbringing, and the values she learned growing up on the West Side.

“It’s less about just doing it because you have to,” Tijerina said. “It’s just because you know you should and because your community asked you to. So my community asked me to, so I did.”

Tijerina was among the volunteers who stood out in the cold rain, greeting each recipient with “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Delia Guajardo, a longtime volunteer, said, “Whether it’s 40 degrees, raining, it doesn’t matter because you’re giving back.”


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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.