Nonprofit organization Thanksgiving for Paso Robles is busily preparing for its 35th dinner for November 28. Mildred Wilkins started the annual event and shepherded it for the first 20 years.
Each Thanksgiving, the banquet room at Centennial Park becomes a one-day restaurant, complete with table cloths, fine China and a home-made dinner.
Two ladies, transplants from Orange County, Linda Stermer and Rhonda Evans oversaw it for three years together after which Stermer continued for a total of 10 years. It was held at the Paso Robles Senior Center until it moved to Centennial Park in 1989.
The last five years, Thanksgiving for Paso Robles Chairman David Kudija has been in charge of the community staple that remains unchanged. It continues to be open to everyone, free of charge and is a full-course, sit-down Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings — turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, green beans, candied yams, cranberry sauce, green salad, rolls, five different house-baked pies and lemonade, tea and coffee.
“It’s a sit-down meal with all of the class we can put forward,” said Kudija, who has been helping out for what will be his 25th year. “We do it a bit differently. We try to make it as festive as we can.”
Guests are not required to sign up before Thanksgiving. They only need to show up at Centennial Park, 600 Nickerson Dr., Paso Robles, between noon and 2 p.m.
“They show up and they will get fed,” Kudija said. “The last few years we have served right around 1,000 meals, plus or minus about 20.”
If guests do not have transportation, Kudija said, Thanksgiving for Paso Robles has someone who will drive them to Centennial Park and then back to their home or the organization can bring a meal to their residence on Thanksgiving.
“We also allow for takeout meals if a group has folks they want to feed at home,” Kudija said. “They can pick up the meals and take them out.”
Thanksgiving for Paso Robles asks that people requesting transportation or delivery of a meal call 805-239-4137 by Nov. 22 to get on their schedule.
Kudija said they are always looking for volunteers and gladly accept donations. People wanting to volunteer must sign up via the website at thanksgivingforpasorobles.com. The volunteer sign-up period runs from Oct. 15 through the week of the event. The greatest need year after year is finding people to clean up.
This is the only event put on by Thanksgiving for Paso Robles.
“It’s 100 percent volunteer and donation,” Kudija said. “The City provides the venue without a charge, but that is the only government money that is involved if you will. Other than that it’s community members rolling up their sleeves and getting it done.”