Community comes together for holiday

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Steve Kemp is a man of simplicity.

Now that the 69-year-old U.S. Navy veteran is retired from the 23 years he worked as a senior accountant for La Casa in Portales, he enjoys not doing much other than riding on his Harley-Davidson trike.

CHRISTINA CALLOWAY: Portales News-Tribune Debbie Hutchens, left, asks volunteer Kambrilyn Eppinger about the colorful necklace she's wearing as she cleaned off tables.

CHRISTINA CALLOWAY: Portales
News-Tribune
Debbie Hutchens, left, asks volunteer Kambrilyn Eppinger about the colorful necklace she’s wearing as she cleaned off tables.

Kemp narrowed his dining venues for Thanksgiving down to three options Thursday and the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Portales Memorial Building was the winner.

“It’s either this, or eating what I have at home, or going to a restaurant,” Kemp said as he took a bite of turkey.

Kemp was one of more than 500 people served Thursday at the dinner. Organizers said at least 400 people ate at the Memorial Building and they sent nearly 150 meals to homebound and disabled residents. All the food was donated by the community.

Kemp said he doesn’t have family left in the area but chose to stay in Portales after retiring because he knows a lot of people here.

“I’m thankful that I haven’t read my name in the obituary yet,” Kemp joked.

He’s also thankful for riding his motorcycle with other vets.

CHRISTINA CALLOWAY: Portales News-Tribune Members of the Portales Church of Latter Day Saints sing a few songs for the community members Thursday who ate a Thanksgiving meal at the Portales Community Thanksgiving Dinner in the Memorial Building.

CHRISTINA CALLOWAY: Portales News-Tribune
Members of the Portales Church of Latter Day Saints sing a few songs for the community members Thursday who ate a Thanksgiving meal at the Portales Community Thanksgiving Dinner in the Memorial Building.

For Portales Junior High School student Henry Ruiz, being thankful starts by giving back to others.

“I like to do this kind of stuff,” said the 13-year-old trombone player about volunteering.

Ruiz said volunteering at the community dinner is something his family has always done but this was the first year he decided to join them in their Turkey Day tradition.

“I just like to give back to the people and help them out that are less fortunate,” Ruiz said.

Kambrylin Eppinger, 8, was one of the younger volunteers at the dinner. She got to pass out bread and clean off tables after people were done eating.

She said her mom and dad, who is a member of the Air Force, remind her of how grateful they are to have a home and that’s why she’s happy to volunteer.

“I think it’s about giving thanks and being thankful for what you have because some people don’t have what you have like a roof over your head,” Eppinger said. “And you have to thank the Lord for that.”

Eppinger’s giving spirit doesn’t stop at her volunteer work; one of her future goals is to open a no-kill shelter for animals.

Cannon Air Force Base airman Marquez Greenhill, 23, had dinner with his wife Christina and their family. His favorite part of the meal was the double chocolate cake.

Though Cannon is a long way from his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., he’s thankful for the friends and family here, and the Air Force for providing him with opportunities for success.

His wife, a native of Portales, said she’s also thankful for the Air Force but for another reason.

“Without the Air Force, I never would have met him,” Christina Greenhill said.

Volunteer and an assessor for Roosevelt County Stevin Floyd set up shop outside of the Memorial Building where he cooked mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy for the meal.

“My parents aren’t doing Thanksgiving this year,” he said.

Though he doesn’t consider himself much of a cook, he used his prior skills from working in restaurants to whip up large pots of food.

“I’m thankful for my health,” Floyd said.

 

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