The 34th annual Thanksgiving for Paso Robles will happen on Thursday, Nov. 22 from noon to 2 p.m. More than 225 volunteers expect to serve about 1,000 people in our community a free, traditional Thanksgiving meal. The event will once again take place at the Centennial Park Activity Center, located at 600 Nickerson Drive.
“Our event is not solely for people with a financial need,” Board Chairman David Kudija said. “Thanksgiving for Paso Robles is also for those who have a social need and want to gather with others. Our goal is to make everyone feel welcome; all are invited, no questions asked.”
Enjoy oven-roasted turkey, country ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, green beans, cranberry sauce, pies, and more. For those dining in, meals will be plated up and served to guests at decorated tables. Take-out and delivery options are available; see sidebar.
“Many volunteers love being waiters,” Board Secretary Elizabeth Schumann said. “Everything and everyone is in place to ensure this is a nice, sit-down restaurant experience.”
Stepping Up to Help
Kudija has been involved with the event for 25 years and Schumann has volunteered with the non-profit since 2004. Additional board members include Larry Schiffer, Jim Utter, and Jennifer Bravo, along with steering committee members Dale Gustin, Brian Stein, Josh Messina, and Rachel and Chip Tamagni.
One job families with small children enjoy is delivering meals. That’s how Kudija first got involved.
“Years ago, I would carve turkeys and my wife Karen would take our kids with her to deliver meals,” he said. “It was fulfilling, so we keep coming back.”
More about the Event
Kudija shared some background on Thanksgiving for Paso Robles: “Mildred Wilkins and her husband started this event for the community. She brought her pots and pans, and her management theory was ‘The Lord will provide!’ Community members would bring their barbecue grills and start cooking at 4 a.m. More people would walk in with cooked turkeys, pies, all of the trimmings – just as Mildred expected. When she decided to retire, she appealed to the community for someone to take over. Two ladies who were in town less than one year agreed to help – Linda Stermer and Rhonda Evans. Rhonda continued for three years, Linda for 10. Linda continues to donate to the cause in other ways and is one of our greatest supporters.”
Now held at Centennial Park, the Recreation Department of Paso Robles donates the use of the facilities, according to Schumann.
Additional community donations make the day special – Jack Creek Farms supplies pumpkins and corn stalks for decorations, men from Second Baptist Church dress up to serve as maître d’s, Cider Creek Bakery supplies food and breakfast items to volunteers, and the Diva Dog Lady and Girl Scouts feed volunteers during prep days.
“These are just a few – many people step up to contribute,” Schumann said. “It’s a true community event. Serving a meal to those in need is only half of our mission; volunteer opportunities are another way of helping people.”
In order to be a success year after year, Thanksgiving for Paso Robles takes months of planning, fundraising, and days of preparation.
“On Tuesday, volunteers sterilize the entire kitchen, and families paint banners and thank-you signs,” Schumann said. “Wednesday is all about prepping – setting up tables, linens, and decorations, pre-cooking; some of this is done at the Culinary Arts Academy. Thursday is go time! Volunteers are in the kitchen early preparing food – everything you’d expect as we get ready for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner cooked up by Chef Brian Stein.
Perhaps Schumann sums the annual Thanksgiving event up best:
“Thanksgiving is about being with people. We invite everyone to join us.”