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Preparing a feast for many

November 23, 2018

HARLINGEN — Joe Lopez directed the kitchen staff yesterday like a pro.

He was eight hours away from feeding more than 300 people.

The clock was ticking and it was inevitable many people were going to start lining up to have Thanksgiving dinner at Loaves and Fishes.

“ There is enough for everybody and a little more for seconds,” said Joe, Loaves and Fishes kitchen manager. “We never run out, and I hope we never do.”

He had Ana Chavez stirring up 60 pounds of mashed potatoes.

Belinda Zavala was tenderizing the turkey. And Josue Vasquez was placing the turkey in the oven to warm up.

For Joe, 61, and his staff it was just another day in the kitchen making good food to feed the community to celebrate the holiday.

“ I love doing this,” Joe said. “And I look forward every year to preparing the holiday dinner.”

Loaves and Fishes is a nonprofit facility that feeds thousands of hungry people each and every month.

Loaves & Fishes hosted its Thanksgiving dinner yesterday from 3 to 5 p.m. But being a day early didn’t mean it would be anything less than the best.

Joe and his staff prepared 30 turkeys, mixed corn and carrot vegetables, stuffing, potatoes, salad and pie.

The annual Thanksgiving dinner comes early at Loaves and Fishes because Thanksgiving Day is the only day of the year it is not open to serve the hungry.

Instead those who work at Loaves and Fishes are able to have Thanksgiving with their own families.

He said the Thanksgiving dinner could not be possible without the many donations that are made from local business and community members.

Yesterday, at 10 a.m., 30 more turkeys were donated from a local business.

Joe said they would be used for the annual Christmas dinner.

Joe has been managing the kitchen at Loaves and Fishes for more than 20 years.

He started working there in 1993 and hasn’t missed preparing the massive Thanksgiving meal.

He recalls the days when the kitchen staff would prepare the Thanksgiving meal the day before the feast.

“ Oh my, never again,” he recalled the scrambling to thaw out the turkey and make the trimmings. “Let’s get some people in here.”

And over the years there has always been volunteers to help make Thanksgiving dinner, he said.

“ The people here today love Thanksgiving,” Joe said.

So, to get ready for yesterday’s meal, Joe and the volunteers started baking the turkeys on Monday. They carved the turkeys on Tuesday.

Josue Vasquez, a Harlingen resident, was one of the many volunteers yesterday.

He opened several cans of vegetables, wrapped turkey trays to warm up and helped make the mashed potatoes and gravy.

“ This is a nice place to come and help out,” Josue said. “The people are really going to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal.”

rgarcia@valleystar.com

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