SAN ANTONIO – A decades-long San Antonio Thanksgiving tradition returned Thursday to an in-person event for the first time since 2019.
The annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner has fed the community for the past 43 years, but COVID put the large gathering on-hiatus for two years.
“We are so excited and elated, and we’re very grateful to the community for coming together to ensure that this tradition continues,” said Patricia Jimenez, president and CEO of the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner nonprofit organization. “Our dinner guests are excited. People were calling us, hoping we would have it in person. It’s a testament in itself. We have a very generous city. We pull together like family.”
The dinner feeds thousands of San Antonians in need with a traditional meal filled with all the trimmings, but it’s become more meaningful than just a warm meal.
“We provide food for the soul. For some of these folks, this may be their only meal and the only contact they have with other people. And for some, this may be keeping them going,” said Jimenez.
Jimenez said organizers expected to serve 25,000 meals to the community, with thousands more delivered to homes. Last year, the nonprofit organization delivered 12,500 meals and 9,000 the year before.
“It’s very hard nowadays, and to be able to make somebody’s day a little brighter with something very simple, it really drives me to be able to give to the community,” said Mandy Guevara, a volunteer.
Guevara and her family have volunteered at the dinner for 24 years. She started taking her children when her husband died.
“To be able to do this with my family and be able to do it for somebody that might be less fortunate, it really warms my heart,” said Guevara.
“I have more memories of Thanksgivings here than not. We started coming when I was 7 years old, so a lot of great memories of coming down, working hard and getting to meet a lot of people who are serving,” said Rey Guevara, a volunteer.
Nearly 4,000 people volunteered to serve and prepare meals. The dinner is one of the largest coordinated events in the city as organizers open their doors to let people know they are part of a family and welcome to have a meal for free.
“It’s meeting each other in our hearts, not with our circumstance or economic or familial circumstance, just seeing a human being’s heart and sharing a meal,” said Rey Guevara.
“Some people receiving, other people being a blessing. You are the giver and the gift,” said Jimenez.