Texans renewed their Thanksgiving Day traditions on Thursday and served feasts to those who might otherwise have gone hungry.
Some did it in a crowd, such as when 4,000 volunteers served meals to about 25,000 people at the annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner in San Antonio.
The volunteers’ spirit of giving is what makes the event so special and a fixture for more than three decades, said Patiricia Jimenez, daughter of the feast’s founder.
“That’s how we’ve been able to exist for 36 years is that everyone is touched by the event in some shape or form, and everybody wants to continue the traditions,” she told KSAT-TV in San Antonio.
Men and women in uniform far from their families, such as those at Fort Hood in Central Texas, had their turkey with all the trimmings. The cooks at the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team dining center also provided edible sculptures of the Mayflower, a chuck wagon, the Alamo and a World War II battlefield.
“We want it to be a home for everybody, to come in, enjoy their meal and feel at home, specially for family members and soldiers,” Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Perry told the Killeen Daily Herald.
Tens of thousands of spectators converged on downtown Houston to view the balloons and floats in the city’s 66th annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
“Have an awesome day with your families! Strike up the band!” Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, the parade marshal, shouted to the crowd.
“It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas season,” spectator Yvonne Thompson told KHOU-TV of Houston. “I’ve been coming for years, since I was a little girl, to watch the parade.”
“It’s something that I’m going to do when I have grandchildren,” said Sara Corey. “I’m going to keep doing this.”
But some acted on a much smaller scale. Bobby Depper, formerly among Houston’s legion of homeless, roams the streets of his city offering meals to those who appear to him to need help.
Five years ago, Depper slept beneath a pile of newspapers in a dumpster behind a Dallas restaurant.
“I was just so angry, and I said if (God) is real, I guess I’ll shout out at him. If he’s real, I guess he’ll hear me now,” Depper told the Houston Chronicle.
Depper says he awakened the next morning and asked the restaurant valet for bus fare. Instead, a man stepped out of a car in the valet line,
“He said not to give me any change, and I thought, ‘How could anyone say that?'” Depper said. “But then I turned around and he was handing me a $100 bill.”
The man was Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who attached to the handout only the condition that Depper “pay it forward.”
No longer homeless and supported by donations from prayer groups and other friends and supporters, Depper gathers backpacks and fills them with supplies that he hands out to people who appear to be homeless or otherwise in need. He also offers lunch or dinner at fast-food restaurants, where they pray before eating and talk of how to break their cycle of homelessness.
“I know what it’s like to be ignored, what that feels like. And no one wants that. That’s why Got puts people like me out there,” Depper said.