ABILENE, Texas - The Annual Veterans Thanksgiving Dinner is just one week away and preparations have officially begun.
"It's so important for the community," said Tamara Barker, Assistant Veterans Service Officer. "It's been going on for so long that it's just a part of it."
Barker said that although every year is a struggle to make sure they have everything they need for the 1,200 people who rely on it, the community has really stepped up.
"People are just coming in off the street and handing us donations and calling and asking 'What can we buy?' and so our room is starting to fill up," said Barker. "It's great the community has really been stepping up and it's greatly appreciated, we are so thankful."
Barker said this year's success spilled over from last year, when the dinner almost didn't happen. Some of the donations from that meal carried over to help pay for the current year, and they hope that happens again.
Not only do 1,200 people show up for dinner on Thanksgiving, about 200 meals are delivered to those who aren't able to make it to the Abilene Civic Center. Meals on Wheels does not operate on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers from the Veterans Service Office will pick those people up who depend on the service and take them to the dinner, or deliver meals.
"There are veterans, there are in-need people, there are the disabled, there are people who don't have anywhere else to go or any other family," said Barker.
Each plate costs about $10, so Barker estimates that the entire dinner costs close to $10,000.
The dinner also requires a good number of volunteers. Barker said there's no need to call ahead, anyone can show up that day.
She said this is the 9th year she's been a part of the event, and being from a military family herself, it means a lot to her.
"We see the same people year after year and with some this is the only time we see them," she said.
They still only have about half the number of turkeys they need so donations are still welcome and appreciated. Donations can be dropped off at the Veterans Service Office. It's located downtown, at 400 Oak Street, Ste. 170.
If you have questions you can also call the office at 325-674-1328.
The dinner is free and anyone is welcome to attend.