There have been some changes this year at the annual Joe Salem Thanksgiving Dinner.
In years past, people could walk inside, take a seat, and enjoy the company and food during the annual dinner. But event organizers say this decades-old tradition is looking different today because of the pandemic.
It has served the community on Thanksgiving for 77 years now.
And every year with the help of volunteers, people have enjoyed a meal of turkey legs, green beans, mashed potatoes and dessert.
"We invite everyone,” event organizer Lisa Saenz said. “It's just a time for us to come together and enjoy a good hot meal
But this year, that hot meal will have to be enjoyed in the comfort of your home rather than inside the Sokol Hall gymnasium at 5502 Kostoryz.
“Everything will be held outdoors now,” Saenz said. “It will be a drive-through distribution. We’re still prepared to serve 500 people. There's going to be some different rules that we have that we ask our guests to follow and it’s all for the safety of them and of course, the safety of our volunteers.”
Organizers ask that you make sure to have your trunk open and empty for volunteers to load up. Plates will also be served based on the number of people in a vehicle.
Longtime volunteer Meredith Jordan has helped behind the scenes in the kitchen for more than 25 years and is prepared to also follow a few more rules for staff.
"All of the staff, all of the volunteers will also have their temperatures checked when they come in,” Jordan said. “And that happens at airports and various places and so we're taking those same precautions. I don't want my staff to get sick by someone coming in."
Saenz says she was afraid the Joe Salem Thanksgiving Dinner would be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the organization recognizes the need for a charitable act during this year of hardships.
"Many people have lost their jobs,” Saenz said. “They have no food so I'm glad we were able to continue to do this and we're just gonna do it in more of a safety way in order to keep our volunteers safe and our guests safe."
And if you are planning on stopping by, the distribution will begin at noon and runs until 2 p.m.