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McALLEN — The Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving luncheon held Thursday helps spread joy, love and hope to those in need with help from staff, community members and the RGV Vipers.
With each plate having turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, corn, a roll and a dessert, the traditional aroma of Thanksgiving filled the room along with full stomachs and smiles.
The room of people was diverse, from full families to the elderly looking for a warm Thanksgiving meal.
Commanding officer at the McAllen Salvation Army, Major Jan Zuniga, said they planned to serve about 1,300 in-house meals and hand out 2,000 meals to the community.
She said the annual luncheon is to provide a space where people could come in and feel at home and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
Zuniga said it’s especially important to give back to the community right now with how the economy has taken a toll on what people could afford at the grocery store.
“There are so many families this year who just felt like well, turkey wouldn’t be a possibility because it wasn’t in their budget,” she said. “And so being able to give back today and provide just a little bit of hope, a little bit of love in the form of such a simple meal, but a special meal on Thanksgiving, it’s just a way for us to care for our community.”
Victoriano Barcelona, a mathematics teacher at McAllen Early High School, said his passion is to serve the community and has been volunteering at the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving luncheon since 2003 when he moved to the United States from the Philippines.
Barcelona, even bringing a few of his students to volunteer today, said he finds it worthy to serve the community and encourages others to give back to the community anytime they can.
He added that another highlight from volunteering is getting to know the diverse community of the Valley.
“A highlight is to know other people that are volunteering,” Barcelona said. “ I get to know the people from the community. Since I love the diversity, you know, all the volunteers here are not just from here, they are from other places.”
Jarrett Culver, shooting guard for the RGV Vipers, volunteered today at the luncheon and said the holiday is the season of giving back and wants to be able to help those who are less fortunate.
Handing out meals with his teammates and coaches, Culver said it was a pleasure to be able to give back to the community through a great Thanksgiving meal.
“The best highlight is probably seeing the smiles on everybody’s faces,” he said. “I just feel like everybody’s happy during this time with Thanksgiving. It is just this season of giving back and being able to just come out and get some good food, good fellowship and talk to each other and see everybody happy, that’s probably the best part for me.”