Steve Salas loaded the last stack of styrofoam boxes into his truck Thursday and hit the road.
The boxes, filled with stuffing and turkey and all the other Thanksgiving essentials, would tremble precariously as Salas made his way through downtown McAllen. When he stopped for red lights or hit a bump, Salas would cautiously place a hand on the boxes to keep them from careening into the back seat.
Salas was delivering the food as part of Thanksgiving Meals for the Underprivileged, an event organized by the Inter-City Christian Youth Program and other local organizations that prepare and deliver meals to families and individuals in need on Thanksgiving Day.
Salas pulled up to the first stop on his route, a house in South McAllen, and sent his 12-year-old son Caleb to knock on the door. No one was home.
“We’ll go to the next one,” Salas said.
The pair had better luck at the next stop, the McAllen home of Antonio Miranda, a Vietnam War veteran who was injured by a mine and uses a wheelchair.
“Remember, thank him for his service,” Salas told Caleb as they got out of the truck.
The pair delivered the meals with a couple of slices of pumpkin pie. Miranda thanked them emphatically.
“It means what I fought for wasn’t in vain,” he said. “This is a freedom that not many people get to know, I think.”
Miranda says that without the meal he’d likely just buy a couple of tacos for his Thanksgiving Dinner.
“It’s very helpful,” he said. “This is something I never had before.”
Salas, who has volunteered with the program for five Thanksgivings, generally works preparing the food. Miranda’s meal was his first delivery, and Miranda was the first beneficiary of the program Salas has had the opportunity to meet.
“It means everything man, it means everything,” Salas said. “What I try to instill in my son is that not everyone has what we have, and it always makes you feel good to be able to give back. Even if it’s something small like a plate of food.”
First Lt. Joe Martinez, President of the Inter-City Christian Youth Program and a member of the Texas State Guard, says the food Salas delivered to Miranda was just one plate out of 400 that volunteers hoped to distribute that day.
“Thanksgiving is such a big holiday, and we take it for granted that everyone has a big turkey on Thanksgiving, but there’s these pockets out there in the community that don’t have the means,” Martin said.
According to Martinez, the event started a decade ago when several local organizations teamed up to do something for the community.
“We discovered that a lot of folks don’t have a Thanksgiving meal on this day, whether because they’re alone, they’re bedridden or they just don’t have the financial means to have a meal,” he said.
Martinez said the meals distributed Thursday aid individuals unable to take part in other charity meal events or turkey giveaways who may have otherwise been forgotten.
“Giving thanks is such an important factor in our community, in our culture, so we wouldn’t want those folks to be left out,” he said. “This is how we show our gratitude, by helping those who aren’t able to have a meal on this day.”