Meet matriarch of Jimenez family who helped start local Thanksgiving tradition

Mary Jimenez looks back at 39 years of giving back to the community

By Erica Hernandez - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - At 87 years old, Mary Jimenez is feeling good and spends every Thanksgiving watching thousands enjoy a hot meal.

Growing up, Jimenez's family couldn't afford to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. 

"I didn't really know about an official Thanksgiving until I married my husband," Mary Jimenez said. 

After getting married, the couple lived in Fort Worth, where Raul Jimenez had a small restaurant.

One year, he thought big and wanted to give back to his customers.

"He said, 'I want them to be happy and I don't want to turn away no one without being served,'" Mary Jimenez said.

After that first year, a call came to bring the dinner to San Antonio, and every year since, it has grown to what is known as the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner. 

Everyone who attends gets a free meal and can enjoy live entertainment throughout the day.

Twenty years ago, the Jimenez family suffered a major loss when the creator of the dinner passed away.

"I didn't even go that year. It was really hard after his death," Mary Jimenez said.

The dinner continued as Raul and Mary's daughter, Patricia, stepped in.

With her leadership and determination, the dinner now serves about 25,000 meals each year.

"I'm happy to see all that and always pray that Lord will bless everyone, the dinner and us," Mary Jimenez said.

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