For the third consecutive year, Anaheim restaurant owner Frank Garcia is planning a free Thanksgiving dinner for an estimated 10,000 poor and homeless people in one of Orange County's largest such volunteer efforts.
Garcia's first two free feasts, which included live music, floral centerpieces and a full-course meal, drew as many as 5,000 people. As in those events, hundreds are expected to be bused in this year by Salvation Army volunteers.
This year's celebration, entitled "We Give Thanks," may serve double the number of meals when the doors of his Anaheim restaurant again open on Nov. 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Garcia said.
Garcia, with the help of 400 volunteers, is planning to prepare the meals in Anaheim, put them in bags, and have them delivered by volunteer drivers to his five other restaurants in Orange County. Volunteers also are needed for several days preceding the dinner to help peel potatoes, chop vegetables and otherwise prepare food.
Garcia, 47, a father of five, has lived in the county for 27 years. Growing up in Texas, he remembered, "My mother would put the turkey in the oven at 1 in the morning. By 11 o'clock we were sitting down, thanking the Lord for all the food we got.
"Nobody does that any more . . . So I want to get everyone together and bring back the feeling of Thanksgiving."
This year, Msgr. Jaime Soto, the Roman Catholic episcopal vicar for the Hispanic community in Orange County, will offer the dinner benediction.
Thanksgiving dinner will be served inside portable tents in the parking lot outside Garcia's Anaheim restaurant, La Casa Garcia, at 531 W. Chapman Ave. Free meals also will also be served at Garcia's other restaurants for those unable to get to La Casa Garcia.
The other restaurants, all called Panchito Taquerias, are at 14141 Redhill Ave., Tustin; 30 Orangethorpe Ave., Anaheim; 13048 Chapman Ave. and 9523 W. Chapman Ave. in Garden Grove; and 1236 W. Civic Center Drive and 1002 E. 17th St., both in Santa Ana.
For information on volunteering to donate time, food or other services, call the Ice House restaurant in Fullerton at (714) 525-3094.