Outside chilly winds blew and the night was fairly quiet, but inside the Newhall Community Center was a stark contrast as hundreds of Santa Clarita families stayed warm, filled their bellies with a traditional Thanksgiving meal and enjoyed the company of their loved ones.
The city of Santa Clarita hosted the return of its annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner Monday evening with more than 400 traditional Thanksgiving meals to provide to Santa Clarita Valley residents. The city is slated to host another dinner Tuesday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Canyon Country Community Center.
“The event is open for the community,” said Yolanda Ledezma, community services supervisor at the Newhall Community Center. “We have a full meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and all the trimmings. People can just come in and enjoy their meal.”
According to Ledezma, this year marks the return of the Thanksgiving Community Dinner. The coronavirus pandemic prevented the city from hosting the event for two years.
As part of the festivities, attendees enjoyed ambiance music, a chance to take family photos and interact with the Parkway Motorcars penguin mascot.
Ayleen Miguel, of Stevenson Ranch, came to the dinner with her friends, Camila and Samantha Favela, and their family.
“When we were little, we came to the center all the time for summer camp. We’ve always known about the Thanksgiving dinner, and we always involve ourselves in the community,” Miguel said.
Miguel said they had a lot of fun and she recognized many faces among the staff and volunteers. Many of the familiar faces were people she knew from summer camp or other city-sponsored events.
“That was really fun to just reconnect, especially after the pandemic,” Miguel said. “It’s for our community and seeing everyone makes you feel really happy.”
Steven Keefe, managing partner and chief operating officer at Parkway Motorcars, attended the event with his family. Parkway sponsored the event and the company played an important part in funding the dinners.
“We’ve been doing this for close to 17, 18 years now,” Keefe said. “We don’t really publicize it or anything. We do this in correlation with these wonderful people from the city.”
“It’s really good to see everybody come out, sit down, and have a really wonderful Thanksgiving meal,” he added.
Keefe said the Thanksgiving Community Dinner makes him feel like a big part of the community, and that it’s important to give back.
Santa Clarita Councilman Cameron Smyth served food to those in attendance. He also enjoyed a meal with his family, too.
“It’s something that I do with my family. I was able to have my wife and son here with me today,” Smyth said. “Now that we’re back to normal, it’s one of the many great events we do. I’m happy to be part of it.”
According to Smyth, the Thanksgiving Community Dinners are a continuance of the festivities the city wants to share with residents.
“You can just see anecdotally how thankful and appreciative people are for us hosting this,” Smyth said. “We have such an amazing staff and you see the number of volunteers, many of whom live right here in Newhall.”
“It’s a really great event and between the kickoff, the Light Up Main Street on Saturday, to this, we’re moving right into the holiday season.”