FLTI Volunteers are Providing a Thanksgiving Community Connection

Fixing a Holiday Meal

Maria Gutierrez of Lamar had been imagining a project for a community lunch in Lamar for some time. Her involvement with the Family Leaders Training Institute through the Big Timbers Alliance for the past several years put that idea to work, developing last year’s Lamar Community Thanksgiving, held at the Lincoln School, HOPE Center last Thanksgiving.  She, and other volunteers, is planning to host another Thanksgiving dinner in just a few weeks from now.

Young Volunteer

“It’s all volunteer and it’s free of charge. We want to be able to offer an opportunity for people to connect with one another, especially during Thanksgiving,” she explained.  “We didn’t have a real idea of how many people would show up for a pot luck Thanksgiving, but we divided up the community and went out, door to door, to explain how it worked and what we wanted to do, and we had over 200 people show up last year.”   Gutierrez said Lupita Mungarey, Pola Berrera, John Rodriguez and others went out to explain about the pot luck Thanksgiving.  Other volunteer speakers included Blanca Rodriguez used the communication skills they had developed from attending the FLTI training they had received to try to make their community a better place to live.

She said hers was one of eight projects that were developed over the past year, based on ideas offered by FlTI members. Nineteen turkeys were either donated or purchased and cooked ahead of time and brought to the HOPE Center on North 10th Street on Thanksgiving Day.  “One gentleman cooked 12 of the turkeys on his grill and others cooked the turkey in their own oven and brought it if for us,” she explained.  Other donations included traditional side meals to complement the main course and that included dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes and lots of pies.  “The servings were from 11am to 3pm and we had some people, like on-duty police officers come in at the end of their shift and other people who had to work on Thanksgiving also showed up.  We also packaged some meals to give to people who weren’t able to come out for the meal.”  She said the college is having a Thanksgiving dinner for some students who can’t get home for the holidays, but it wouldn’t fall on Thanksgiving, so they would be welcome to join the event at Lincoln School.  “We want to make this open to people who may not have a place to go or may not be able to afford a Thanksgiving dinner, or who can’t even get out of the house, or to travelers or people who aren’t able to take the day off from work.”

Gutierrez stressed the importance of community in her efforts. “This is a time when we shouldn’t be strangers to one another and we made sure that people wouldn’t just eat a meal sitting by themselves and leave.  It was important that people just started talking to one another, and that’s what happened.  If we saw someone sitting alone, we’d talk to them about themselves and introduce them to another person at the table and let them get acquainted.”

She said, “We had a good turnout, and we found we got a lot more from it than we expected in return, which was great. We were actually able to donated $200 to the HOPE Center.  She said the donations will also help provide the tableware set ups for the dinner as the food is donated by pot luck and whatever is left over goes to the Center.  She said volunteers should show up by 8am on Thanksgiving morning and they had over 50 who helped in one way or another last year.  “People need to come in from the North side entrance off West Maple Street, across from the HOPE Garden at North 10th Street,” she said.

Gutierrez is keeping a list of donations, which, so far, is at seven turkeys with matching cooks, “We got some donations from some of the banks last year, which helped out and private assistance too.” If anyone would like to volunteer their time or food or cash contributions, contact Maria Gutierrez at 719-529-0735 or Lupita Mungarey at 688-7958.

By Russ Baldwin

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