Castanedas and friends come together to cater Thanksgiving at Lion’s Center


Lion Center Turkey Lunch-016

BRAWLEY – Volunteers served a Thanksgiving feast to the hungry, the lonely, and to the homeless, Thursday, at the Lion’s Community Center in Brawley. Tables lined with fall colors and decorations filled the Center, while music played in the background, and volunteers scurried to help their guests.

The Castaneda family who runs the Hacienda Scholarship Fund, through their Hacienda Snack Bar and Catering Business, hosted and organized the Thanksgiving Lunch. Five years ago, Rosie Van Bean approached the Castaneda family to cater the holiday meal. Her late husband, a veteran, inspired her to organize the lunch in order to serve other veterans in the community.

The following year when Bean’s husband passed away, the Castaneda family volunteered their services a second time to host the free Thanksgiving Lunch and have been hosting the event ever since.

The Thanksgiving meal takes about 2-3 days to prepare using 21 turkeys, 80 pounds of potatoes, and 80 pounds of stuffing, among massive amounts of all the other traditional fixings.

The last minute cooking and prepping started as early as 5 a.m. at the Hacienda Snack Bar and Catering restaurant in Brawley, setting up the tables and decorations at the Lions Center began by 9 a.m., all so the doors could be opened by 11 a.m.

According to Matthew Castaneda, owner Mario’s son, about 50 volunteers helped put this year’s event together. Volunteers included family, friends, employees, 4-H Magnolia Club, the Baseball Legends Group, Ricochet in Imperial, and people from the general community.

Tori Rollins, one of the volunteers from Ricochet and a personal friend to the Castaneda family, visited local parks in Brawley to invite the homeless for lunch, and said “(I) love that they do this for the people,” when asked about the event and it’s organizers.

Rollin’s son, Caleb, 11, also volunteered at the event saying, “It’s kind of cool that so many people came out to help.”

The entire community was invited, and “no one will be turned away,” explained Matthew. Community members had a choice of eating at the Lion Center or taking a plate home.

According to Matthew, some community members stop by to take out boxes for others that cannot make the trip to the Lion Center themselves.

The event is mostly advertised through word of mouth, Facebook, and flyers handed out to different churches and organizations in the community.

Mariza Carate, a Brawley resident, expressed how grateful she was to the organizers, volunteers, and cooks. She wouldn’t have had turkey dinner if it weren’t for the day’s event.

The Castaneda family hopes to make it a tradition that they can do every year, Mathew explained, “It is all to give back to the community.”

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