During the holiday season, many senior citizens are alone and cannot afford to prepare a holiday meal for themselves. In 1979, San Antonio restaurant owner and businessman, Raul Jimenez, recognized this need in his community and established a Thanksgiving Day event designed to serve these forgotten individuals.
Now in its 33rd year, the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner continues to provide senior citizens and less fortunate a place to enjoy a hot and nutritious turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day. Held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, the event invites seniors to dine at a “community dinner table”, celebrate the holiday with their peers, and enjoy live music and entertainment.
The Dinner currently serves over 24,000 senior and needy citizens from San Antonio and the surrounding areas and has grown to be one of the largest Thanksgiving benefits in the country.
The Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner is a San Antonio tradition that brings the whole community together.
Over 4,000 volunteers work to make this event possible. Volunteer Committee Members assist project management with the coordination of transportation, food preparation and service, beverages, decorations, event-day volunteers, entertainment, security, and clean-up.
Community and corporate volunteers assist with food preparation event week. Area school districts contribute student-made table decorations and hundreds of students help decorate the convention center. On Thanksgiving Day, volunteers gather to greet dinner guests, prepare and serve meals, and clean up at the end of the day.
This tradition is only possible with the assistance of corporate sponsors, foundations, local businesses, and private donors. Currently over 50 area companies provide goods and services to this worthy cause.
Last year, underwriters for the event included Valero Energy Corporation, The RK Group, Starbuck’s, Time Warner Cable of San Antonio, Sterling Bank, CPS, Humana, Tesoro Energy Corporation, The Honorable Dolph Briscoe, UPS, and the Roland Cisneros Family.
Time Warner Cable of San Antonio also provided free long-distance phone calls on Thanksgiving Day for all dinner guests wanting to reach loves ones throughout the United States and Mexico.
The City of San Antonio, a sponsor of 29 years, contributes the use of the Convention Center exhibit halls and kitchen facilities needed to host the event.
The San Antonio Spurs coordinate a Yam Drive by providing free tickets to fans who donate 10 cans or more of yams on select game nights. Other sponsors included The Roland Cisneros Family who donated over four hundred and fifty turkeys last year. Mrs. Baird’s Bread contributed over 24,000 servings of bread while Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Big Red provided beverages.
Local musicians also donate their talents to provide live entertainment for our dinner guests.
The San Antonio media plays a tremendous part in inviting Dinner guests, recruiting volunteers, and generating community financial support. All major English and Spanish print and electronic media provide story coverage throughout the month of November with special focus on Thanksgiving week.