"Labor of Love": What it takes to host the city's largest Thanksgiving Dinner


The Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner has been mixed in San Antonio’s tradition since 1979 when the late Raul Jimenez fed 100 of San Antonio’s elderly and less fortunate. This year, 4,000 volunteers are expected to serve more than 25,000 who gather for the fellowship and the food, said event organizer Patricia Jimenez.

“The food is remarkable. It’s a labor of love. The turkeys are cooked from scratch—everything is prepared fresh,” Jimenez said. “Just because we are cooking for thousands doesn’t mean that the quality should suffer….we serve a wonderful, delicious meal, pumpkin pie and all. My father was very big on that and that is how it has continued to be, even after his death.”


We visited the site Tuesday, the second of three days of preparations, to get a glimpse of how much work goes into the massive feast. What we found were volunteers who truly cared about the community. 

Young and old, the volunteers filed into a kitchen at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, put on their hairnets and aprons, scrubbed their hands and committed their day to preparing the food. A savory smell of fresh turkey filled the air and the volunteers' energy filled the room. 

Craig Bianco, The RK Group Executive Chef, praised staff and volunteers.

“It’s really nice to see all the people come together,” Bianco said. “We’re here to oversee things but it’s really all the volunteers who do the hard work.”

Some volunteers knew the drill, having volunteered for several years. Others were new to the effort, but all of the volunteers we spoke to said they were pleased to be a part of the team.

Lisa Gonzales, 23, a Wells Fargo employee, said this is her first year volunteering. She smiled as she de-boned turkeys Tuesday.

“It feels good to give back to the community and know you’re helping people who might not be able to experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”

Joann Hughes, 69, said this is her third year volunteering. She will volunteer all week, including serving on Thanksgiving Day. “God tells you if you have a chance to give back, that’s what you should do,” she said. “It makes me feel good."

The numbers are just as impressive as the volunteers' efforts. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Volunteers: 4,000                 
  • People served: 25,000
  • Money raised: $85,715 raised by Border Media Radiothon. Additional funds are contributed by companies, organizations and individual online donations


Donated food

  • Turkey: 9,400 pounds
  • Stuffing: 6,250 pounds
  • Green beans: 6,250 pounds
  • Gravy: 200 gallons
  • Yams: 4,688 pounds
  • Cranberry Sauce: 4,688 pounds
  • Bread: 32,000 dinner rolls
  • Pumplin Pies: 3,000 pies


Event Location

Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Event Schedule

  • 9 a.m. Doors open
  • 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. All Faith Worship Service
  • 10:30 a.m.-4:30 pm. Free Turkey Dinner
  • 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Entertainment and Dancing



  • Rocky Hernandez & the OBG Band
  • Santos Soza y Sus Estrellas
  • Los Bandoleros
  • Ezzencia Musical Band


More information visit www.rauljimenezdinner.com.