People can pick up dinner Nov. 26 at St. Rose Catholic Church parking lot

PASO ROBLES — Preparation for Thanksgiving for Paso Robles annual dinner usually begins with the core group meeting in August, but it started earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We usually meet in the middle of August and begin planning,” said Thanksgiving for Paso Robles Chairman David Kudija. “With everything shut down due to COVID-19, I started thinking about it in May, and we started talking about it in July. We think we have a solid plan in place.”

The nonprofit group has come up with a workable plan and will be serving its 26th annual Thanksgiving meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 26. One significant difference this year is it will be a drive-thru instead of the usual sit-down dinner, complete with tablecloths, fine China and a home-made dinner.

“It will still be a complete Thanksgiving dinner,” Kudija said. “People will just have to drive-thru to get it.”

The other significant change is the location. The drive-thru will be held in the parking lot of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 820 Creston Rd., Paso Robles. It had been held inside the banquet room at Centennial Park since 1989.

Mildred Wilkins started the annual event and shepherded it for the first 20 years.

Two ladies, transplants from Orange County, Linda Stermer and Rhonda Evans, oversaw it for three years together, after which Stermer continued for a total of 10 years. It was held at the Paso Robles Senior Center until it moved to Centennial Park’s banquet room.

Kudija has been in charge of the free community staple for the past six years. Except for it being a drive-thru and moving to St. Rose, he said everything else should be the same.

“It continues to be open to everyone, free of charge,” said Kudija, who has been volunteering for 26 years. “It will be a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings — oven-roasted turkey, country ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, green beans, candied yams, cranberry sauce, green salad, rolls, house-baked pies, lemonade, tea and coffee.”

Guests are not required to sign up before Thanksgiving. They only need to show up at St. Rose between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“Show up and you will get fed,” Kudija said.

For the last couple of years, Thanksgiving for Paso Robles has served on average 1,000 meals. This year they are preparing 1,500 meals.

“We are expecting a greater need this year,” Kudija said. “This year, with the economy suffering and the way this crazy year has unfolded, we think more people are going to come out.”

If people do not have transportation, Kudija said, Thanksgiving for Paso Robles will bring a meal to their residence on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving for Paso Robles asks that people requesting delivery of a meal call 805-239-4137 by Nov. 20 to get on their schedule.

Kudija said they are always looking for volunteers and gladly accept donations. People wanting to volunteer must sign up via the website at thanksgivingforpasorobles.com. The volunteer sign-up period runs from Oct. 20 through the week of the event.

This dinner is the only event put on by the nonprofit Thanksgiving for Paso Robles. Donations can be mailed to PO Box 662, Paso Robles, CA 93447.

“Thanksgiving for Paso Robles is 100 percent organized and executed by volunteers,” Kudija said. “We expect a large turnout this year again and your assistance is needed more than ever.”

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