Just a Thought: Raul Jimenez Dinner
By Steve Walker
It is that time again for the Raul Jimenez Dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
Now in its 35th year, the once a year event continues to provide a hot turkey dinner with all the trimmings to senior citizens, homeless and the less fortunate from all over the city.
Traditionally the dinner is served at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio. Besides seniors and the less fortunate, airmen and soldiers stationed in San Antonio who are unable to go home for the holiday are bussed from the numerous Air Force bases and Ft. Sam Houston for the annual gathering. Busses also bring in seniors from the various senior centers around town.
The mission of the dinner is to invite seniors and others to dine at a “community dinner table”, celebrate the holiday with their peers, and even enjoy live music and entertainment.
As one who has participated in the gathering in various capacities over the years, I find it to be a rewarding experience. The time spent at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Thanksgiving Day with fellow seniors, military members, homeless and the less fortunate is really hard to put into words.
The Dinner currently serves over 25,000 senior and needy citizens from Bexar County and the surrounding areas and has grown to be one of the largest Thanksgiving benefits in the country.
Back in the 80s, I contributed my time to doing numerous tasks. One year my brother Jeff and I went downtown days before the dinner and spent nearly a full day shucking the turkeys. I remember we were given plastic gloves and extremely sharp knives to skin what seemed like a never ending stack of turkeys. I came away with a few minor cuts on my hands for my efforts.
That particular year Thanksgiving happened to be my mother’s birthday which is why we participated earlier in the week so we could be home with her on that day.
Another year I bussed tables for the workers eating area as well as the tables in the main makeshift dining room. That was really rewarding as many of the seniors graciously thanked me for my efforts as I roamed the hall for empty plates and such.
One year I served plates of food to the tables for those waiting for a meal as a Balcones Heights Councilman along with other elected officials and community VIPS.
In 2006, when I started the Walker Report photoblog, I began covering the event for the blog and from that point on covered the dinner in photos. Even as a Judge I continued to cover the event.
Currently over 4,000 volunteers work to make this annual event possible. Volunteer committees assist with the coordination of transportation, food preparation and service, beverages, decorations, event-day volunteers, entertainment, security, and finally, clean-up.
Numerous community and corporate volunteers assist with food preparation event week to include shucking those turkeys like I did many years ago.
Area school districts are also an active part of the dinner as they contribute student-made table decorations and hundreds of students who volunteer to decorate the convention center. On Thanksgiving Day, the volunteers gather to greet dinner guests, prepare and serve the meals, and clean up.
The City of San Antonio, a sponsor of 34 years, contributes the use of the Convention Center exhibit halls and kitchen facilities needed to host the event. Along with numerous sponsors, the dinner is a city-wide team effort to feed those who otherwise wouldn’t have a meal for Thanksgiving.
To those who volunteer and give of their time for those less fortunate, “Happy Thanksgiving.”
As Always, I write just a thought.
Steve Walker is a Viet Nam Veteran, former Journalist and Justice of the Peace.