For those without loved ones to be with, staff and volunteers at Interim Inc’s Pajaro Street Wellness Center became their Thanksgiving family.
The center, which provides free resources to those with mental illnesses, whipped up meals for nearly 100 guests on Thanksgiving. They eagerly lined up outside the building before doors opened at 1 p.m. Thursday for their Thanksgiving feast.
Once open, Richard Herrera of Salinas excitedly entered the center and sat at a table. He said he regularly comes to the center for services.
“It’s time to celebrate with my friends,” he said. “I have no family so now I have friends to celebrate Thanksgiving with. People all around the U.S. celebrate it.”
At a nearby table, Salinas resident Patty Harvey sat across from her husband and patiently waited for the hot food to be served.
“The food is excellent,” she said while smiling wide. “I enjoy Thanksgiving here and it’s a blessing I’m here … This is a great thing. I’m happy.”
Nathaniel Davis of Seaside said he also comes to the center for services. He sat at a table with five others and attentively watched as the volunteers began serving the food.
Around 40 center staff and volunteers bustled through the packed room, escorting guests to their tables, serving them drinks and food, bringing them napkins and even whipped cream to go on top of slices of pumpkin and apple pie.
Some guests were able to fit in a second plate of the heaping meal and others happily picked up boxed plates to take home. Everyone also received a raffle ticket for prizes after the meal.
Interim Inc, which runs the center, is a nonprofit agency that also provides affordable housing, homeless outreach, and support services for adults who have serious mental illnesses.
The agency offers two holiday meals each year – Thanksgiving and Christmas. While most of the guests are also clients at the center, the meal was open to anyone unable to spend the holidays with family or friends.
Center staff member Savannah Alvarez said she enjoys working at the event and even brings family members to help volunteer.
“It’s nice to see everyone come together. It’s a big family and it feels good,” she said.
Alvarez has a large family who is lucky enough to spend a lot of time together, she said, so she doesn’t mind spending the holiday with others.
“It’s nice to do something with people who don’t have family,” she said.
More than a half dozen of the volunteers were children on Thursday.
Samantha Valdez, 11, and Lena Vulitaggio, 10, laughed as they hustled around picking up trash and offering help to the guests.
“I feel grateful because there’s people coming in who don’t have money for this and they have smiles on their face,” Valdez said.
OMNI Resource Center Staff Ricarda Rodriguez laughs with Hector Alacon during the center's Thanksgiving meal.
(Photo: Chelcey Adami - The Californian)
Pankaj Patel serves Richard Herrera at Interim’s OMNI Resource Center Thanksgiving. (Photo: Chelcey Adami - The Californian)
Yazmin Garcia and Gabriel Medrano hand out slices of pie at Interim’s OMNI Resource Center Thanksgiving. (Photo: Chelcey Adami - The Californian)
Adrianna Hernandez (third from left) pours gravy on a dish held by Savannah Alvarez at Interim’s OMNI Resource Center Thanksgiving. (Photo: Chelcey Adami - The Californian)
Nathaniel Davis smiles for the camera as Yazmin Garcia serves him pumpkin pie. (Photo: Chelcey Adami - The Californian)