Christmas dinner takes year of planning

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Joe Garcia, co-owner of El Rancho Restaurant, places a pan in the buffet bar in preparation for the free Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.

Clarence Plank

The Garcia family starts planning a year in advance for the annual free Christmas dinner at El Rancho Restaurant.

Co-owner Joe Garcia said every year he starts preparation for the next Christmas dinner the day after the big event, using the latest head count and factoring in other projections to ensure there is plenty of food.

This year marks this seventh consecutive dinner. It starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Portales restaurant and is open to anyone.

The family also has plans to start a Christmas dinner next year at its new restaurant in Clovis.

“We compile what we used and what we anticipate what we will be using the next year,” Garcia said. “Usually around September or October we see what kind of donations our brokers might be able to provide and then that lets us know what we have to coordinate. El Rancho as a whole probably makes about 75 to 85 percent of the meal.”

Each year the Garcia family and volunteers serve between 300 to 400 people in just four hours. They also put together plates for home deliveries or pick-up. Calls can be placed Christmas morning for home delivery orders.

The dinner features a buffet with turkey, ham, dressing, rolls, green bean casserole, desserts and red chile will be served.

“I feel the community has given us an opportunity here to serve them,” Ruben Garcia said. “We feel like giving back to the community to those who are a part of our extended family.”

Fast facts

What: Free Christmas dinner

When: Christmas Day, Saturday.

Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: 101 S. Chicago.

Contact: 359-0098