For the first time in its 77 years, the Joe Salem dinner was a drive-thru event due to COVID-19. Despite the change to the event, event organizer Lisa Saenz says she believes the event ran smoothly.
“It was a great success, for it being our first time doing a distribution, we couldn’t be more thankful for how everything turned out, just totally perfect,” she said.
Food distribution began at noon, and all 500 plates of Thanksgiving dinner were gone before 1 p.m.. Volunteers were out early in the morning cooking the food taking nearly nine hours to cook 500 turkey legs and four hours to cook the sides.
Even with the socially distant change, event attendees were still appreciative that it was held.
“It’s awesome. For the people that need, it’s awesome, people that don’t have families, it’s awesome. There are people out there that don’t have families to share dinner with, and it gives them time to celebrate just like we do,” said event attendee Mary Soto.
“I’m kind of old, and it’s nice that when you get old and you become social security, that something like this, this event, can help us with very small income. With the pandemic, it does help out,” said Manuel Aleman.
Saenz promised Joe Salem that she would continue hosting the dinner every year, and the change to the event ensured that it could still be held during the pandemic.
“More than anything, it was always something special for Mr. Salem. I think this year, because of the pandemic, we went through, ‘do we do it, do we not do it?’” Saenz said.
“It’s a different way of celebration, but something that lets you know that life continues. It’s always a time of year when everyone appreciates it,” said attendee Fred Trevino.
Saenz believes the event was able to run so smoothly due to all the help volunteers provided.
“Golly, these guys did such a good job helping us out today. It wouldn’t have been successful without the help of our volunteers,” she said.