Thanksgiving for Paso Robles unites community with homemade meals, generosity, and a vision for the 40th year ahead

PASO ROBLES — Over 1,400 homemade meals were made and distributed at the 39th annual Thanksgiving for Paso Robles. Held at Centennial Park, over 200 volunteers worked to put together the meal for anyone who wanted to sit at their table on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23. 

Thanksgiving for Paso Robles is a celebration of thanks serving over 1,500 men, women, and children from all communities, a traditional Thanksgiving meal at no cost. A true expression of community that brings diverse people together to share the day with others.

“What I always say is everyone is welcome either from a financial need or a social need,” says David Kudija, the events chairman.


Volunteers began cooking the homemade meal on Monday at the Paso Robles Culinary Arts Academy on Golden Hill Road. They then bring and set up the meal at the Centennial Park Activity Center. But preparations for the dinner begin months ahead. That includes pre-ordering supplies in which costs have escalated for in the last few years. 

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Photo by Camille DeVaul

Kudija notes that when he began volunteering with the nonprofit 28 years ago, it cost them about $5,000 to $8,000 to purchase the food. Today, it costs them over $20,000.

“The past two years have been tremendous [in food cost], but so far, we have been fortunate through donations to meet our needs,” he says.

This year, a total of 1,496 meals were served either in the dining room, picked up or delivered. That is up a bit from the 1,480 meals served last year. Following the COVID pandemic, more people have been opting for their meals to be delivered or picked up. Meals are delivered throughout Paso Robles, San Miguel, Creston, Templeton, and Atascadero. Out of the nearly 1,500 diners, only about 350 guests ate their Thanksgiving meals in the dining room.

Two hundred of the homemade meals are reserved and delivered to the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) location in Paso Robles.

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Photo by Camille DeVaul

“The donation from Thanksgiving for Paso has had a profound impact on ECHO and the individuals we serve,” ECHO Director of Operations and Development Austin Solheim said of the donated meals. “Beyond the nourishment provided by the meals, this gesture represents a community coming together to support those facing homelessness and related challenges. The significance of such contributions extends beyond just the meal; it symbolizes compassion, solidarity, and a shared commitment to making a positive impact across our community.

“We are immensely grateful to Thanksgiving for Paso Robles for their generosity and community-minded spirit. Their donation goes beyond food; it represents a shared commitment to creating a supportive and caring community for all.”

Kudija and his team of volunteers are looking forward to celebrating the 40th annual Thanksgiving for Paso Robles. 

“Next year is our 40th year,” he said. “It will be great; Mildred Wilkens started this because she was a frustrated restaurateur who wanted to open a restaurant but couldn’t, but she could for a day and her motto was the Lord will provide and that’s continued to happen for us.”

For more information on Thanksgiving for Paso Robles, visit