More than 400 families, seniors and individuals from surrounding areas, including Farwell and Muleshoe, Texas, among Curry and Roosevelt County residents, attend the annual Portales Community Thanksgiving Dinner, which is in its ninth year.
“We were talking one day and each of our churches had a Thanksgiving dinner and we thought why not just have one big dinner,” said event coordinator Joe Parie of he and coordinator Veda Urioste. “That’s one of the unique and special things about this dinner is it’s not just one church or organization; it’s the community as a whole.”
Parie said there are many regular locals to the event each year but many people new to the area will come as well.
Parie and Urioste said most people who come to the event help along with eating.
“It makes them feel like they’re a part of it,” Parie said.
“And we try to make them feel like family, so they’ll feel at home,” Urioste added. “We don’t turn anyone out. Everyone is welcome to come.”
Parie said it’s the moments when families on tough times come in for a meal and are sent away with a basket of food that makes all the work put into the event worthwhile.
“There’s usually some family or person there who really humbles you,” Parie said. “I don’t think we’ve ever dreaded it (the event) coming.”
“It’s good to see how many people we help,” Urioste added. “But this couldn’t happen without the prayers and donations.”
Parie and Urioste said local residents are so generous with their financial and food donations that every year Parie and others are able to take the leftover food to Juarez, Mexico, for churches, the prison and people from the street.
“And it really teaches kids to be more responsible and teaches them more about the giving aspect,” Urioste said of children who help with their parents.
“A lot of people really support this and it’s a real blessing to us,” Parie said. “And without Elvia Garcia (co-coordinator), we couldn’t do this.”
Urioste said last year more Cannon Air Force Base personnel attended the event and due to Cannon’s growth, they expect even more this year.
She said she also increased advertising on ENMU campus this year in hopes of drawing in more Eastern New Mexico University students, who could not go home for the holidays.
“We get a few more each year,” Parie said. “Once they get started, they wanna keep coming. I think even more come just to enjoy the fellowship.”
“We get more excited the more people we see coming in,” Urioste said. “The more people we see coming in, the more it makes it worthwhile.”