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550 partake in Community Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving dinner
A group of about 250 persons turned out for a 5 p.m. serving of Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday and were followed up by about 300 persons at 7 p.m. A small army of volunteers helped to feed the crowd. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

A hungry crowd of about 550 persons showed up at the Ceres Community Center Thursday evening for a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and vegetables for the fourth annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

The event was hosted by the Center for Human Services (CHS) and Ceres Partnership but a number of other groups and individuals donated all the food items. Meals were free. Shane Parson of Diamond Bar Arena and Embroidery Plus donated pies and 25 turkeys which were discounted by Cost Less Foods manager Del Ambris. Other sponsors included the city of Ceres Recreation Division, Ceres Chamber of Commerce, Ceres Unified School District and state Senator Anthony Cannella.

"This is all by donation," said Jennifer Rangel, program coordinator of the Ceres Partnership. "The Condit family pretty much donated the rest of the sides. We also had donations of canned foods and stuff this year from community members who wanted to help out."

Approximately 250 persons signed up for the 5 p.m. serving and 300 at the 7 p.m. serving.

The news of the dinner was by word of mouth and reservations were 80 percent full by the time the Courier printed its first article on the dinner.

A small army of volunteers assisted in serving the meal, including 10 students from the Project YES program, six members of the Ceres Youth Commission, four students from California State University, Stanislaus and six community volunteers.

Jose Saldivar from La Cascada Restaurant cooked the turkeys despite the fact that his daughter was giving birth in Modesto.

The Hernandez family who has participated in Ceres Partnership events volunteers as a DJ, playing soft background music.

"This is their way of giving back to our center," Rangel said.

Center for Human Services (CHS) is a local non-profit providing services to youth and families throughout Stanislaus County. In Ceres, CHS operates Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children, a one-stop shop for families in need. Services offered include school readiness for kids, parenting classes, emergency food and clothing assistance and counseling.