All the Thanksgiving fixings are included in the Hidalgo County Sheriff's annual giveaway Monday. Photo by Matthew Wilson/The Monitor

Representatives from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office handed out over 4,000 pounds of turkey, or about 320 whole birds, to families in need at the office’s annual turkey giveaway at Sunrise Hill Park in Mercedes on Monday.

Sgt. Francisco Medrano, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said Monday’s well-attended giveaway was one of the most ambitious the office had undertaken.

“It’s an annual event. We’ve had it on a smaller scale for the last 10 years, but now under Sheriff (Eddie) Guerra, we’ve made it a much, much bigger event,” he said. “It’s the turkey and all of the fixings.”

According to Medrano, there were no specific qualifications to receive a voucher for the vittles. Vouchers for the turkeys were given to families based on the recommendations of community members.

“We made contact with schools, with leaders in the colonias, and we’ve kind of identified the needs through those individuals; organizations like LUPE, ARISE, helped us find them,” Medrano said.

One of the individuals to receive a turkey voucher was Jessica Coronado, of Weslaco, who said she was surprised when her daughter came home from school with a voucher.

Coronado said without the turkey and comestibles she received through the voucher, her family wouldn’t have been able to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving at home.

“Usually I don’t expect to have a turkey,” she said. “Usually we go to the Salvation Army, we go and get a little thing there.”

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra hands out turkeys at the office’s annual turkey giveaway at Sunrise Hill Park in Mercedes on Monday. Photo by Matthew Wilson/The Monitor

Turkeys were evidently in demand Monday. A queue of about 100 individuals began forming not long after the giveaway began, with families hoping to take home a surplus turkey.

“We normally have some that are left over, vouchers that are not picked up, so we’ll be giving them some,” Medrano said.

Medrano said he’s glad turnout was so high and he hopes the sheriff’s office can give away upwards of 500 turkeys next year.

“This is an opportunity to show our community that we care, and an opportunity to meet them, allow them to ask us questions, but more importantly, it’s an ideal situation to show that we’re here to serve. That is what the sheriff’s office is all about,” he said. “These are the same people that we go out and meet on a daily basis with our calls. So if they meet us at this point, they build a rapport with us, so they are more likely to be open to report actual offenses, to let us know what’s going on, to report drugs, crime, smuggling, anything.”