For the past 40 years, the Jimenez family has fed thousands of people on Thanksgiving. This November will mark the 41st annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner, but instead of seating people at long tables inside the Henry B. González Convention Center next month, organizers will bring the dinner to community members in their homes.

Jessica Jimenez grew up with the annual Thanksgiving tradition in San Antonio. Her grandfather Raul Jimenez started feeding community members on Thanksgiving in the parking lot of one of his restaurants decades ago, she said, and the whole family still works together to serve thousands of meals each year. Although in past years the dinner has served more than 25,000 meals, this year, the goal is to deliver meals to 10,000 people.

“Just like any nonprofit now, we’re all having to pivot, given COVID safety in the pandemic,” Jimenez said. 

While the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner organization is still working on final details, Jimenez said volunteers already deliver about 3,000 meals each year to people’s homes. 

“We’re going to partner with a lot of different organizations to fulfill the needs of San Antonians,” she said. “We will definitely need volunteers, but the volunteer opportunities will look different this year.”

Typically, volunteers help cook the food at the convention center in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and serve the food on the holiday. The convention center kitchens will still be fired up for roasting turkeys and preparing yams, but the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner organization is working with the City of San Antonio and catering company RK Group on how to safely prepare food this year.

There will be close to 4,000 pounds of turkey, 2,500 pounds of stuffing, 2,500 pounds of green beans, about 2,000 pounds of yams, another 2,000 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 1,250 pies cooked and delivered to homes around San Antonio, Jimenez said.

“One of our founding principles is we really wanted to provide a community table with a nutritious and enriching meal,” she said. “We’ll have all the traditional fixings … The event will just look different where people can enjoy their meals in their homes or wherever they live.”

Jimenez said the annual dinner is still a family affair: Her two brothers, their spouses, and their children also help organize the dinner each year. Her aunt Patricia Jimenez chairs the event.

“This is our 41st year and I’m 40 years old,” Jessica Jimenez said. “This is the only thing my family has ever known for Thanksgiving. I feel very proud of the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to witness it grow and develop.”

People interested in volunteer opportunities should check the website here; details will be available in the near future, Jimenez said. The organization is also still taking donations. Find how to donate here.

“We’ve remained committed and focused to our founding mission, which is feeding senior citizens and needy individuals on Thanksgiving Day,” Jimenez said. “From a core mission perspective, our mission stays the same. But the method of facilitating those meals is going to look different.”

“Now, more than ever, there’s so much need out there. So many people have been hit with hard times. We really feel like people should be able to celebrate a beautiful holiday.”

H-E-B hosts a similar event in Texas and Mexico cities during the months of November and December called the Feast of Sharing. A spokesperson for the company said H-E-B had not finalized plans for this year’s Feast of Sharing events.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.