Hundreds Feast at Thanksgiving Events: “Convergence of That Community Spirit”

November 23, 2018

Linda, who declined to give her last name, laughs while talking with others and enjoying the food Thursday during the annual Our Center Thanksgiving at the Old Chicago restaurant in Longmont. For more photos of the dinner go to timescall.com.

Tucked away in a corner booth, 10-year-old Braden Bard sunk his teeth into brownie while he waited for the rest of his food to arrive.

He sat with his mother, Victoria Bard, in Longmont’s Old Chicago restaurant on Thursday. The pair now live in Boulder, but they’ve been coming to the OUR Center Thanksgiving celebration in Longmont most years since Braden was a baby, and they don’t have any plans to stop.

Victoria Bard has turned to the OUR Center, which assists people who are experiencing homelessness or who have low incomes, in the past. Much of the past 10 years she’s spent dedicated to keeping Braden, who has cystic fibrosis, alive, she said. He wants to live to be 100, he said.

“This is still our community,” Victoria Bard said. ”... It’s the tradition, 10 years now.”

Hundreds of people converged in Longmont for the 31st annual celebration. Hundreds more enjoyed another feast at Boulder’s First Presbyterian Church .

In Longmont, some came with families, some came with friends, some came alone. They sat among strings of lights and cords of orange leaves, at tables decorated with baskets of gourds and vases of fresh flowers. The bar was stacked with dozens of pumpkin and pecan pies, and staff and volunteers took loaded plates to the tables.

For Merin Heckler, who opted for a second plate of food instead of a slice of pie, OUR Center is a refuge. She can be found there almost any weekday, she said. On Thursday, she reminisced about the Thanksgiving dinners her late granny, Narion, used to cook, but she was thankful for all that she’s found in OUR Center.

“You see friends. They can help with you problems. It just brings you out of yourself,” she said. “That’s what I like about it, more than anything. It brings you out of yourself. You don’t feel like you’re alone.”

At a nearby table, Brian Haire and Dalia Romero shared a meal with their children, 10-year-old Juliet Haire and 4-year-old Sean Haire. Then, the parents accompanied their children to the event’s craft area.

Haire said the food was delicious, and he translated from Spanish for Romero, who said was thankful for the people who donated their time and resources to make the day happen.

Juliet made a bracelet with beads that read in block letters “BFF - JULIANA” to gift to her best friend. Sean donned a bracelet with his own name on it.

Juliet said she loves Thanksgiving, in part because of the gravy her grandmother makes when she’s not out of town.

“I’m thankful for playing games with my dad,” Sean chimed in.

Jay Nelson, Old Chicago’s general manager, said the restaurant stocked enough food for 700 people, including about 100 turkeys, courtesy of Craftworks Foundation, a charitable arm of Old Chicago’s parent company.

Edwina Salazar, OUR Center’s executive director, said the partnership between OUR Center and Old Chicago, in its 13th year, is an easy one. The event takes less preparation now because everybody knows what to do.

“I think this is the event with the most community spirit,” Salazar said. “We have the convergence of a business that wants to partner and help people; the OUR center, a nonprofit; and community volunteers. It’s a convergence of that community spirit — people coming together and being in an atmosphere of positivity and celebrating and being in gratitude.”

Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, cniedringhaus@dailycamera.com

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