Portales community gathers for meal

Staff photo: Alisa Boswell Luis Cruz, 13, left, serves a local resident some sweet potatoes Thursday during the Portales community Thanksgiving dinner at the Memorial Building in Portales.

Staff photo: Alisa Boswell
Luis Cruz, 13, left, serves a local resident some sweet potatoes Thursday during the Portales community Thanksgiving dinner at the Memorial Building in Portales.

By Alisa Boswell
MANAGING EDITOR
aboswell@pntonline.com

PORTALES — “Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces” was the best thing about the annual Portales community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday at the Portales Memorial Building, according to 11-year-old Irene Cruz and other first-time volunteers.

“I like to put smiles on people’s faces,” said Irene’s older brother, Luis, 13.

“The camaraderie, people wanting to come out and help on this special day” is what stands out for event coordinator Veda Urioste.

“I like to see the younger generation coming,” Urioste added. “St. Helen;s has their confirmation class and they ask for them to come out and do community service, so they’re here. Seeing the younger ones get involved — one day they’re gonna to have to take over this whole Thanksgiving meal day. We teach them young, they’ll learn, then they’ll be here to take over.

The event played host to a full house on Thursday with many local residents and a few people from out-of-town attending.

“It’s just the two of us, and I can’t see fixing a big meal for the two of us,” said Debbie Hutchens of her and her husband, Webb. “Plus, we get to visit with everyone.”

Hutchens said fellowshipping with others in the community is by far her favorite part of the dinner.

“I think it’s great,” said out-of-towner MaryLou Prolizo of Utah, who came with her mother, Portales resident Peggy Newbanks.

“It’s good to see children as part of the volunteering, and it’s good for people like me who are from out of town,” Prolizo said of the dinner, adding that she and her mother would not have been able to cook, because she has been visiting to help her mother as she heals from surgery.

“It’s good from a volunteering standpoint, and it’s good from a food standpoint,” she said. “The food’s delicious.”

This was the first time brothers Malin, 18, and Martin Barnes, 14, had attended the community dinner.

“It’s a really cool idea to have a meal that people can just come out too,” said Malin Barnes. “Our brother goes to college at ENMU (Eastern New Mexico University), and a lot of his friends don’t have family around here and they can’t go home for Thanksgiving, so they end up just being stuck in their dorm. So (with this) they get to come out and actually have a meal to share on Thanksgiving.”

“I’ll be honest; I had no idea we were going,” Martin said. “My mom dragged me out of bed; we watched the first 10 minutes of the Macy’s parade, then we came here. (But) I’ll be honest, it was a pleasant surprise.”

Malin said the boys’ father is deployed to Turkey for a year and a half while their oldest brother is in England.

“So it’s just the three of us here, so my mom was like, ‘We’re not gonna cook,’” he said.

Joe Parie, another coordinator for the event, said something that stood out to him at this year’s event was not just the full house, but the fact that it seemed like many attendees genuinely needed somewhere to go on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a big blessing to see that people have a place to go,” he said. “It’s heartwarming.”

In his 15 years of working the dinner, what stands out to Parie the most is, “the people’s generosity. People make donations; people call (to see what we need).”