Feeding a community’

By Amanda Howell Thanksgiving means many things to people around the world. It’s spending time with family and friends, giving thanks for the blessings in life and sharing probably one of the best meals you’ve had all year long. For Kathy and Arturo Gloria, owners of El Flamingo restaurant, it’s all of that’as well as a chance to give back to the community. An idea first introduced to the community 12 years ago, offering a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal (free of charge) continues to grow in popularity. And why not’ It’s great food, a friendly atmosphere and absolutely mess-free ‘for the patrons, that is. The annual meal gives local residents an opportunity to relax at Thanksgiving and enjoy an authentic, home-cooked turkey dinner, complete with all the trimmings, but without all the hassle and cleanup. “We had a good turnout,” said the Glorias, ‘and we want to thank our many volunteers and supporters who have helped us over the years.” Serving over 600 people for Thanksgiving lunch, the Gloria family raised over $3,000 this year for two worthy causes. Regular patrons, as well as new guests poured into the local Mexican food restaurant on Thanksgiving Day, despite the cold temperatures that many experienced as they waited their turn to grace the buffet line. Serving was pretty steady from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the Gloria family and their many volunteers. Even though the event is a free-will offering, patrons give willingly to help offset the growing expenses. This year the Gloria family elected to split the proceeds earned from the meal between the Sunset Center and Toys for Tots, a program sponsored by McCulloch County Helping Hands as a way of giving qualifying children a special Christmas gift this holiday season. Currently, the center has received 45 applications with 115 children eligible for the Toys for Tots program. Each child is represented by a “tree angel” which is placed on one of several local merchant’s Christmas tree for people to pick up and purchase a gift. The money earned from this year’s Thanksgiving meal allowed Mrs. Gloria the opportunity to purchase 20 of the tree angels to help grant a wish for children in need this Christmas season. “The number of angels she picked up are a tremendous help to us,” said Helping Hands Director Dorothy Lafuente. “It helps a great deal, but really anything that anyone can do is a big help. We appreciate the Gloria family and the many donations they have given us over the years.” Typically, the center handles 300 gifts for area children, and so far just over one-third of that total have registered for the program. According to Mrs. Lafuente, as the Christmas holiday nears, that number will increase and be more in keeping with the annual average. Area businesses will have angels available on their trees as Christmas nears; however, anyone who would like to pick one up can always stop by Helping Hands as well. Also contributing to the local Toys for Tots program this year by making a monetary donation is the Kiwanis Club of Brady. “We’re grateful to everyone, no matter how they’re able to make a contribution, whether it be by monetary donation or other. The purpose of this program is to spread holiday cheer and that’s what we want to do.” Applications are still being sought for the Toys for Tots Program. Stop by Helping Hands Monday through Friday from 1-4 p.m. to apply. At the Sunset Center, aside from its regular home-bound patrons being delivered a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the local senior hot spot will also share in the glory of the generous donations given Thursday at El Flamingo. To assist area seniors in need this winter, the Gloria family purchased blankets and heaters with the money collected through the meal. “A lot of our home-bound people don’t have money to give and this really helps them out tremendously,” said Evelyn Pitcox, director of the Sunset Center. “It’s wonderful to be the recipient of such generosity. We’re always glad to take any type of donation from anyone, and we’ll respect the Gloria family’s wishes and use the funds as they see fit. The donations we receive always go to a worthy cause.”

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