Cristo Rey Community Center has been serving Thanksgiving Day dinner for over 20 years.

As the temperature drops and the year comes to an end, communities fill with holiday cheer. The mention of Thanksgiving brings thoughts of a warm meal, being surrounding by family and friends, and showing gratitude. At Cristo Rey Community Center the mention of Thanksgiving means supporting the community, generating a conversation about food access, and volunteering.img_8244

At Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing, Thanksgiving Dinner is unlike anything you could imagine. As a signature feature, the meal is provided with a sense of dignity. The guests are seated at tables, order food from menus, and are served by wait staff dressed in uniform.  The Community Center opened its doors on November 24, eager to serve the community. With numbers that rise every year, Cristo Rey was unsure of how many people would show up. But, it prepared to accommodate as many people as possible. And even those who aren’t in attendance can benefit from this annual event. Cristo Rey also delivers hot meals to home-bound individuals.

The Center was able to serve 250 meals in its facility. And even allowed guests to take home around 100 meals.

img_8153 Thanksgiving 2016 - Coats & blankets to give away

 In addition to a warm meal, kids could also do arts and crafts. Guests could even take home blankets, coats, hats, gloves and other items made available by Cristo Rey.
 Thanksgiving 2016 - Meal Delivery
This year Cristo Rey delivered 150 meals to home-bound individuals.  Children even hand-decorated the bags with Thanksgiving themes.

Year Round Giving

The community center has many programs that run throughout the year to support food access. The Cristo Rey Community Center Direct Assistance program serves vulnerable individuals and families who are food insecure or suffer from hunger. The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year”. The Thanksgiving Dinner is one way Cristo Rey brings awareness to hunger in the community. However, the need for food security exist, not only around the holiday months but at all times. Cristo Rey has several free-food programs accessible to the community to fight food insecurities.

One more thing to give thanks for: Volunteers

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The day could not be possible without the help of volunteers. The event takes a great amount of work as the food served at the Community Center and the meals delivered to those at home is all homemade. The Cristo Rey Community Center had 138 volunteers who contributed their time or donated food. Volunteers gathered ahead of time to peel potatoes, prepare side dishes, and bake pies.  On the day of the event, they carried out the prepping, cooking or distribution of the meals.

There was an assortment of volunteers this year. The Crowne Plaza Hotel prepared, cooked and sliced 40 turkeys, while lending some warming units to keep food hot on Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving 2016 Recap - Wicked Cast members

Cristo Rey was honored to have volunteers from the cast of the Broadway hit play Wicked. The volunteers delivered meals to those in need and even awarded a one lucky person tickets to see the show.

Thanksgiving 2016 - Sweetie-licious and other pie donations

Sweetie-licious Bakery also brought a number of their award-wining pies in addition to the ones provided by members of the community!

Joe Garcia, the Executive Director of Cristo Rey Community Center likes to call the event “Thanks-receiving instead of Thanks-giving.”  Garcia says everyone gets something out of the experience. “Those in need are able to get a warm meal and the volunteers are able to see the fruits of the efforts,” says Garcia.

Special thanks to Dena Vatalaro from Habitat for Humanity, Niki Buda from Grace & Porta Benefits in Brighton, Lynn Henley from Rehmann Financial, Fred Schaard from Rehmann Financial and the board of Cristo Rey, Julie Hartner from The Marlin Company, Lori Smith, Cristo Rey Human Resources Director, and John Gardner from Comcast and a Cristo Rey board member.

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