The biggest rush for the Salida Community Thanksgiving Dinner came at noon Thursday, but diners formed a steady line at the St. Joseph Parish Center until the very end of the event.
After the last person filled their plate, more than 750 meals had been served at the parish center.
“It’s for everyone,” Lu Valerio, one of the event’s organizers, said. “It went well.”
Five cars also delivered 112 meals to people who couldn’t make it to St. Joseph’s to enjoy the meal. Approximately 50 more meals were carried out, totaling about 162 meals to go and more than 900 overall.
To feed everyone, volunteers cooked 31 26-pound turkeys. They also served 700 rolls, 120 pounds of mashed potatoes, 120 pounds of green beans, 10 gallons of gravy and more than 100 pies for dessert.
“The food was fantastic,” Larry Fehling said. “It was really, really good.”
To prepare all of the food, serve it and clean up afterwards, 119 volunteers helped with the event.
“I’d like to tell them thank you; we could do it without them,” Valerio said.
Hale Konopka came home to visit his mom, Bonnie, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and brought three friends from Qatar home with him. They all ended up volunteering at the event.
Konopka attends Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and his friends attend Carnegie Mellon in Qatar, but they are doing a semester abroad in Pittsburgh.
“They’re here for a semester and were looking for a fun adventure, so I invited them to come out,” Konopka said. “I wanted to show them a traditional Thanksgiving.”
“I love it,” Emad Iqbal said. “It’s very warm and everyone is smiling.” He said what stuck out to him about Thanksgiving was how welcoming everyone was.
For Raghid Bsat, it was not only his first Thanksgiving dinner, it was also his first time in a church. “It’s very interesting,” Bsat said. “I’m Muslim, but I see the same values: people eating on the same table and smiling to their fellow neighbors. These are very common things we also do in the Islam community.”
Samer Al-ani was born in the U.S. and lived here until was 7 years old and then moved with his family to Qatar.
“It gives me nostalgic memories,” Al-ani said. He said his family kept celebrating Thanksgiving for two or three years after they moved to Qatar, but eventually stopped.
“Seeing the sense of community is really special; in bigger cities like in Qatar, you don’t see that,” Al-ani said. “This has a real authentic feeling to it.”
Iqbal’s favorite dish was the cranberries. Bsat said he enjoyed the turkey, which isn’t common in Qatar. “The food was really nice, other than I tried pork by mistake,” Bsat said.
Shauna Alloy said her favorite dish was the green beans and the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.
“Everything was good,” Jim Alloy said.
“I appreciate what they do, that’s why I come and make balloons,” said “Uncle Ed” Alloy.
Lots of elderly people and lots of homeless people also enjoyed a meal at the event.
“We’ve had more homeless this year and more homeless families,” Valerio said, adding that some years they haven’t had any homeless people, but they have started seeing more the last two years.
“It’s a good place for the homeless to come and eat, poor guys,” Shauna Alloy said.
It was a good place for the rest of the community to eat their Thanksgiving dinner too.