With the help of volunteers and donations, the Annual Community-Wide Thanksgiving Dinner will be held this year, however it’ll be a little different than in years past because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to organizer Hector Gutierrez.
“Last week we made the decision to have drive-thru. It was a tough decision,” Gutierrez said. “We met with the city manager and city officials ... it’s in the best interest of the community to do drive-thru.”
Gutierrez and committee members began making plans for the traditional Thanksgiving meal in June, hoping the event could be held inside as usual, but the final decision that came late last week was made as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.
Gutierrez was also concerned if the event was not held this year, it may cease altogether.
“The camaraderie of the people ... the visiting ... it will be all be missed,” he said. “If we don’t do it this year, what will happen next year?”
The drive-thru route in the El Campo Civic Center parking lot will resemble a maze where cars will be directed to the pick-up area for plates-to-go in the back of the building. The number of plates handed out will be determined by the number of people in the vehicle.
“Based on the number in the car ... that’s what they will receive,” Gutierrez said.
For residents unable to drive to the civic center, volunteers will be delivering plates to their doorstep. Again, there will be an alloted number for each home.
“A maximum of three plates on homebound will be delivered,” Gutierrez said. “If there are more (people) in the house, they can pick up plates themselves.”
This week, orders for shut-ins, or those who are homebound, are being tallied by making a phone call. When calling, be sure to leave your name, address, phone number and the number of plates needed (up to three plates). If no one is available to take your call, simply leave a message with information at 979-543-5073.
The event would not be possible without volunteers, which are still needed to man the parking lot and to work indoors getting food packaged for to-go plates.
“We have very good volunteers who sacrifice their time, money and talents,” he said.
For the safety of those working inside, precautions will be taken.
“Volunteers, those who come in, will be required to wear a mask ... we will check their temperature and if they have a fever, they won’t be allowed in. Everybody will also wear gloves ... we want everybody protected,” he said.
For those who would like to help out, but can’t be there to serve or direct traffic, they can provide desserts.
“We do need desserts since it is all to-go,” Gutierrez said.
Those wishing to donate sweets are asked to drop them off at the front door of the civic center between 9 and 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Cookies, brownies and cakes, such as a bundt or pound cake type with no frosting, are suggested and if possible individually packaged in plastic baggies. Someone will be at the door to receive the goodies.
In addition to volunteers and desserts, contributions are always welcome because this event is strictly funded by donations from the public.
“Any amount of donations are welcome,” he said.
The dinner, organized by El Campo Community Events, a non-profit organization, is being catered by Werner’s Catering from Shiner. Two-thousand plates have been ordered.
“They have been providing excellent meals for many years,” Gutierrez said.
This event began roughly 25 years ago when the late Pastor Danny Roberts organized the first dinner. Roberts headed up the Thanksgiving Dinner for 20 years, according to Gutierrez, then Shawn Ferguson took charge for the next couple of years and now Gutierrez, who began as a volunteer during the third year of the event, has been in charge for the past three years.
“Not too many towns do this,” he said. “We live in a great community. I look forward to it.”
Gutierrez wants to remind residents, this event is for anyone.
“Everybody is welcome to come pick up a plate,” he said.