Church, Restaurant to Serve Several Thousand Free Thanksgiving Meals


Last updated 11/22/2012 at Noon

RIVERSIDE - A Riverside church and a Norco restaurant will serve up Thanksgiving feasts today as they maintain holiday traditions that have fed thousands of people -- at no cost -- for years.

''We always get a positive response to this,'' said Julia Cook, coordinator of the Central Community Christian Fellowship's Thanksgiving Day outreach.

Last Thanksgiving, more than 4,000 people were served free meals, many of which were delivered to their doorsteps.

''Meals on Wheels doesn't deliver during the holiday, so we try to make sure people who are homebound have a good Thanksgiving dinner,'' Cook told City News Service.

Central Community Christian Fellowship, located at 5623 Arlington Ave., began the charitable service in 1987. Along with the 3,500 meal deliveries, the church serves 400-500 diners on site, according to Cook.

''There's a real mix of people who eat here at the church,'' she said. ''We have some homeless people and other people who are going through a divorce and don't want to be alone. Others have lost loved ones and want some place to enjoy Thanksgiving. What makes us a little different is our volunteers will sit down and dine with guests, instead of just serve the food.''

Around 500 people -- some of them from out of state -- volunteer their time, according to Cook.

Meal preparations begin days in advance, with donors cooking turkeys and making other trappings in their own homes, then transporting the fixings to the fellowship.

''We break down everything, slice the turkeys, add the stuffing, the butter rolls, veggies and desserts,'' Cook said.

Because the effort is completely voluntary, there is no way to estimate costs, according to Cook.

''So many people donate so many little things, it's hard to put a price on it,'' she said.

Meal deliveries will begin at 9:30 a.m., and Thanksgiving meals will be served at the church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Eight miles to the west in Norco, Silverado Burgers, at 1091 Sixth St., is anticipating upward of 700 people for its 10th annual Thanksgiving Day meal service.

''It's completely free,'' said Brent Sakamoto, who has organized the event since 2003. ''All you need to do is show up hungry.''

Sakamoto, who operates a local security firm, told CNS that Marie Callender's was a major sponsor of this year's meal service, donating dozens of freshly made pies. Other donors provided funding for the purchase of 25 turkeys.

''People have really stepped up at the last minute,'' Sakamoto said.

He said he was inspired to take charge of the service after seeing what it meant to beneficiaries.

''Holidays are a hard time for people, particularly those who don't have family or can't take time off and have to work,'' Sakamoto said. ''We're just a group of folks who get together and want others to have a good holiday.''

About 150 people volunteer their time and resources for the endeavor.

Sakamoto said often times, public safety personnel who are working on Thanksgiving show up for dinner.

''Whatever's left over we box up and hand out to the homeless,'' he said. ''We spread out and look for them. Nothing ever goes to waste.''

Meals are served at the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

According to Sakamoto, this year's event will feature live entertainment -- courtesy of the Hillbilly Rain band.


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