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Free Thanksgiving meals served up for those in need in Las Cruces

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- While many get to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families, some members of the community don't have that choice. For them, places like El Caldito soup kitchen in Las Cruces have come together to provide a spot to eat and celebrate every year since the 1990's.

It’s the community coming together to help members going through rougher times.

“Las Cruces is a very giving community. We have volunteers so all the food was donated, prepared and served by volunteers,” said Gabe Anaya, El Caldito’s board president.

All this work takes plenty of preparation.

“I started on Sunday buying turkeys and worked Monday through today, so it takes 4-5 days to get ready,” said Sam Hancock, a board member.

The people at El Caldito expected and prepared up to 300 people and for that they had to roast 34 turkeys all in time for a thanksgiving meal.

The days of endless work on top of their normal duties seem to all be worth it.

“The appreciation that these folks have, that they always say thank you and God bless you, you know they’re very appreciative and I think that’s worth a lot,” Anaya said.

For the people having their Thanksgiving dinner, El Caldito gave them a place to be warm, safe, and fed.

El Caldito also serves the homeless population seven days a week.
They take donations year round. You can click here to donate.

Elsewhere this Thanksgiving, one Las Cruces restaurant kept its tradition of having a family lunch. This was the fifth year running that Chala’s Wood Fire Grill closed its cash register and opened its doors with free Thanksgiving meals for anyone who walked in.

The employees told ABC-7 it was their way to give back.

The tickets came into the kitchen and plates were dished out by the staff at Chala’s who volunteered to work, none were forced to be there.

They use these free meals to bring people into the restaurant where tables were pushed together so people interact more.

Sure, the cooks and waitresses gave up family time to be there on a holiday, but they said it was a worthwhile way to share with the community.

“I learned from my elders and growing up that it’s always better to give than to receive, and for this particular day I chose to come and teach my son that it’s awesome to receive but it’s better to give a helping hand,” said Mariano Hernandez, one of the cooks who volunteered to come in.

Hernandez’s son was also in the kitchen helping him serve guests.

Chala’s has no plans to end the tradition.  Their doors for the annual family Thanksgiving will open again next year at 11 a.m.


Julio-Cesar Chavez

Julio-Cesar Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter.


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