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Volunteers fed over 1,000 people in need at the Ruben Salazar Park

The senior center at Ruben Salazar Park in unincorporated East Los Angeles was filled to capacity Saturday for the annual Thanksgiving lunch hosted by the Friends of Salazar Park with help from an army of volunteers, local businesses and the county’s parks and recreation department.

Organizers said close to 1,000 people were served during the 27th annual program, which aims to provide a Thanksgiving meal to seniors, low-income families, and the homeless who call the area home.

Volunteers of all ages arrived to the senior center early Saturday morning to start setting up for what many of the participants said was one of the best meals they’d had in a while.

A hefty serving of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberry sauce, salad, rolls and a side of pickled jalapenos and carrots, followed by pumpkin pie and other deserts were some of the items on the menu served to the mostly Latino attendees.

Dozens of pre-identified needy families were also given turkeys and other food items to take home.

Over 1,000 people enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal at the senior center in Ruben Salazar Park. EGP photo by Jacqueline García [1]

Over 1,000 people enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal at the senior center in Ruben Salazar Park. EGP photo by Jacqueline García

86 year-old Gaby Salazar is one of the pioneers of the programs offered at the center, and told EGP she was exited to help. “I have been coming to the center for over 33 years,” she said, “I’m here every year [for this event] as a volunteer, we are here as a family,” said the senior who is also very active in the center’s aerobics program and appears more fit than many of those half her age.

The Thanksgiving luncheon was like a big family event, where there is no distinction between ethnicities. People from all parts of the world were there, either eating or volunteering. “We are very grateful to be able to enjoy this food in this great time” said Maria Orozco, who attends the senior center on a regular basis. “I come here all the time to eat and to dance,” she said.

“It is my honor to be here, especially for the seniors,” said Rodrigo Tan, a first time volunteer.

“We [invited people] in churches, it doesn’t matter if they are Christian or Catholic, and we go to food banks,” said 82 year-old Cris Mojica, a volunteer organizer of many of the center’s activities. “This is done by seniors volunteers and we invite a lot of needy families and homeless too,” he said.

“We are very happy to be reunited in this special day,” said Yolanda R. Palacios, “Thank you to all who made this possible.”

After all, the event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of those seniors who gladly participated by donating their time and energy.

“Seniors are the ones who get it together,” Mojica proudly told EGP.