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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Thanksgiving, With A Latin Twist: Dinner For 500 Is Accompanied By Beans And Rice

by Kevin Krause

November 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

For Alberto Joaquin and many others at the Boynton Beach Soup Kitchen on Thursday, Thanksgiving was like any other day -- an opportunity to have a hot meal.

Joaquin, 27, is a migrant farm worker who struggles to earn enough money for his family. And he is thankful any time he can enjoy a hot meal.

"It was very good," Joaquin said. "You have to respect what these people do for us."

In Joaquin's native Guatemala, there is no Thanksgiving. So the Soup Kitchen advertised Thursday's dinner as a "special meal." No turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

To accommodate the predominantly Hispanic migrant farm workers who visit the kitchen, organizers prepared beans and rice, chili, tortillas, and salsa and chips, along with some old favorites such as ham. All the pies and pastries were donated by Publix stores.

Joaquin, of Lake Worth, has worked at a nursery west of Boynton Beach for about four years, and he doesn't take anything for granted. He misses his mother and brothers back home, fears eventual deportation and wonders whether he'll be able to afford to go to school.

"I would like to stay here," said Joaquin, who goes to the kitchen about twice a week. "Hispanic people love this country. There are a lot of problems in my country. We come here to live in peace. We're trying to be better people.

People began lining up at 8:30 a.m. in front of the Soup Kitchen on Boynton Beach Boulevard west of Florida's Turnpike, said organizer Arlene Bush, 71, who helped cook the meals. The kitchen, also known as "La Cocina de Dios," or God's Kitchen, was open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bush said they expected to feed 500 people Thursday. The kitchen serves meals year round but gets the most donations and volunteers on Thanksgiving.

"They filled up our shelves," Bush said. "They can have as much as they want. I love this. I'm a cook. I enjoy feeding people."

Someone calls out to her from across the room about a whole turkey -- thawed -- that they want to donate.

"Sure, we'll take it," she replied.

Al O'Connell, 69, was constantly moving Thursday, his first year volunteering at the kitchen. At the moment, garbage bags needed changing.

"I'm pretty much a dining room orderly right now," he said. "I love God's poor people."

Kenson Gox, 37, of Boynton Beach, headed for his car with handfuls of bread and rolls after enjoying a meal. He had no complaints.

"Everything is good," he said. "They have something for you."

Augusto Sanchez, 38, works 10 hours a day driving a farm tractor for $5.75 an hour. Some of that money goes to his family back home in Puerto Rico. He is a regular at the kitchen.

"I'm here for the turkey day," he said.

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