Volunteers feed more than 500 people at community Thanksgiving dinner

Argen Duncan

The annual Portales community Thanksgiving dinner served more people than ever Thursday, an organizer said.

Portales Community Outreach offers the turkey dinner at the Memorial Building free to the public every year.

Organizer Joe Parie said the event had a little more than 500 people coming by the Memorial Building or having a meal delivered.

Volunteer Joyce Davis said a lot of people had come to help, and diners seemed to enjoy the meal.

“The dinner was really good,” said first-time attendee Julia Castillo, 10.

Her mother, Doris Castillo, agreed the food was good and said she was thankful to God for everything she had, including that her cancer hadn’t returned. Doris’ 5-year-old son, Edgar, said he was happy to be around family.

The dinner has taken place at the Memorial Building for eight years. Central Christian Church and St. Helen Catholic Church had served separate Thanksgiving meals before that, but combined their efforts eight years ago, Parie said.

This year, organizer Veda Urioste said, Lighthouse Mission delivered 40 meals people in Clovis had requested through Portales Community Outreach, and the Portales organization delivered meals ordered through Lighthouse for people in Portales.

This weekend, Portales Community Outreach is taking Thanksgiving to Juarez, Mexico, in partnership with Souls Ministries of Las Cruces. The trip is an annual tradition that began seven years ago, and changed to include serving food in a prison five years ago.

Parie said the group would hand out hot drinks and turkey sandwiches to people on the street in Juarez’s “red-light district” today, and Saturday, they would work in a soup kitchen. He said they feed 200 to 250 people at each place.

Working in the red-light district is eye-opening, Parie said. There, he has given coffee to people sleeping on one piece of cardboard and covered with another in the dead of winter.

Sunday, Parie expects to provide 1,500 to 2,000 meals to Juarez prison inmates and their families.

Davis has participated in previous trips to Mexico.

“That really turned my life around, I tell you,” she said, recalling how she felt she shouldn’t have so many things after seeing people in Mexico with nothing.

Parie said the trip to Mexico ensures everything donated to Portales Community Outreach for Thanksgiving is used.

Many people and organizations contribute their own time and money to the Thanksgiving efforts, and Parie said it adds up to something “very much bigger than us.”