Santa Clarita returns for its Thanksgiving Community Dinner

Cool winds blew outside and the night was fairly calm, but inside the Newhall Community Center there 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 loved ones.

The City of Santa Clarita hosted the return of its annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner Monday night, featuring more than 400 traditional Thanksgiving dishes for residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. The city is scheduled to host another dinner at the Canyon Country Community Center Tuesday night from 5 to 7 p.m.

“The event is open to the community,” said Yolanda Ledezma, director of community services 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 food.”

Volunteer Jessica Bakshi serves green beans to people dining at the Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center on Monday, November 21, 2022 in Newhall, California. Chris Torres/The Signal

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 celebrations, attendees enjoyed mood music, the opportunity to take family photos and interact with the Parkway Motorcars penguin mascot.

Ayleen Miguel from Stevenson Ranch came to dinner with her friends Camila and Samantha Favela and their family.

“When we were little, we used to come to the center for summer camp all the time. We’ve always known about Thanksgiving dinner and we’re always involved in the community,” Miguel said.

Miguel said they had a great time and she recognized many faces among the staff and volunteers. Many of the familiar faces were people she knew from summer camps or other city-sponsored events.

“It’s been really fun just reconnecting, especially after the pandemic,” Miguel said. “It’s for our community and seeing everyone makes you feel really happy.”

Newhall Community Center staff Zalen Lyttle and Emery Nochez lay out pecan and pumpkin pie for the Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center on Monday, November 21, 2022 in Newhall, California. Chris Torres / The Signal

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 a major role in funding the dinners.

“We’ve been doing this for almost 17, 18 years now,” Keefe said. “We’re not actually releasing it or anything. We do this in collaboration with these wonderful people from the city.”

“It’s really nice to see everyone come out and 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 giving back is important.

Santa Clarita Councilman Cameron Smyth served food to those in attendance. He also enjoyed a meal with his family.

“I do that 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’re doing. I am happy to be a part of it.”

Santa Clarita City Council Member Cameron Smyth serves people dining at the Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center in Newhall, California on Monday, November 21, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal

According to Smyth, the Thanksgiving Community Dinners are a continuation of the celebrations the city wants to share with residents.

“You can only see anecdotally how grateful and appreciative people are that we’re 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, Light Up Main Street on Saturday, we’re moving right into the holiday season.”

Volunteer Rowan Smyth serves buns to Jose Ramirez for the Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center in Newhall, California on Monday November 21, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal
PP the Penguin greets children at the Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center on Monday, November 21, 2022 in Newhall, California. Chris Torres/The Signal
Santa Clarita City Council Member Cameron Smyth serves Rosa Luciano filling for the Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center in Newhall, California on Monday, November 21, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal

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