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Community Thanksgiving meals adapting to pandemic

Jennifer Bravo
Volunteers with the 36th annual Thanksgiving for Paso Robles are preparing 1,500 to-go meals.

With restrictions on gatherings forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, some area free Thanksgiving community meals are adjusting their plans.

In years pre-pandemic, community events like Thanksgiving for Paso Robles (T4PR) would fill large dining halls with a thousand people, celebrating a holiday meal together.

“We obviously can’t do the indoor dining space anymore," T4PR event organizer Jennifer Bravo said. "So this year it is a full drive-through.”

Bravo said volunteers are preparing 1500 to-go meals on Thanksgiving day from 11- 2 pm at Saint Rose Church in Paso Robles.

Bravo said people will just need to drive up and a volunteer will load the meal in the car. 

“Every meal would be individually packaged, and it’s a full traditional Thanksgiving dinner," Bravo said. "Turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, yams, stuffing rolls and pie.”

There’s no limit on how many meals you can get, but it's on a first-come, first-served basis. Bravo recommends showing up at the drive-through early. 

“It is literally for anybody, and that is the great thing about it," Bravo said. "In the past we’ve seen a lot of seniors, a lot of larger families, and a lot of kids from Cal Poly come up because they are alone for the holiday.”

The Grass Roots II Thanksgiving Dinner at the Elks Lodge in San Luis Obispo is also doing the drive-up method this year.

Event director Peggy Fowler said the organization is preparing more than 1,000 meals to give away. 

Participants with vehicles "could talk to the greeter on their cell phone," Fowler said. "Or we ask them to wear a mask if they have to roll the window down.”

People can walk-up or drive-up on Wednesday from 12 to 4 p.m. to get a meal.

Fowler said although many people may be enjoying the meal in smaller family gatherings, she reminds people even if you’re enjoying the meal alone this year, you aren’t truly alone.

“A little old lady told me ‘but I’m still going to be eating alone.’ And I said no, we are eating together because I’m going to eat the same meal," Fowler said. "Anybody who wants to break bread with their neighbors should come get a meal.”

Other SLO County free Thanksgiving meals can be found on Thursday, in Cambria from 1:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street. In Grover Beach, the South County People’s Kitchen Thanksgiving meal is happening from noon to 1 p.m. at the Shouts of Grace Church on W. Grand Avenue. In Morro Bay, the Morro Bay Peace Officers' Association and the Rotary Club of Morro Bay is offering a Thanksgiving dinner from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Morro Bay Community Center. Free rides to the dinner are available to those without transportation by calling 772-2744 between 8 and 10 a.m.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.