By Melody Vallieu
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Those wanting to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner need only pull into the drive-through for this year’s feast.
El Sombrero owner Ruben Pelayo said despite the challenges of 2020, organizers have came up with a plan to continue the 26th annual Thanksgiving Day meal, free to the community, on Thursday, Nov. 26. With social distancing orders in place, and the amount of guests — in the thousands — that normally come to the annual dinner each year, indoor dining simply would not be possible. Longtime volunteers have instead pivoted with a plan to offer a drive-through-only service in which carry-out only meals will be served in a two-lane format at the restaurant, located at 1700 N. County Road 25-A, Troy.
All organizers ask is that patrons be flexible while they wait for their meals to be hand-delivered to their vehicles, as this will be the first event of its kind.
“People are going to have to be patient as they follow the directions,” longtime volunteer Murphy Howe said. “Follow the signs and be patient.”
Howe said volunteers, with a handful still needed, will be in the parking lot directing traffic, taking orders and delivering the meals to vehicles, all without guests having to even leave their vehicles.
This year’s dinner will include turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, green beans and pie.
Pelayo’s American “mom” Judy Rose said they couldn’t be happier they were able to figure out a way to salvage the dinner this year, despite COVID-19 concerns. She said the restaurant usually serves thousands of people during the hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, and people may need the meal more than ever this year.
While people can’t be served in the dining room, as the restaurant will be closed, she hopes just as many community members come out to receive the take-out meals to take home and enjoy.
“Anyone who wants a hot meal, a traditional Thanksgiving meal, is welcome to pull up and get one,” Rose said. “We welcome anyone and everyone to stop and enjoy what is being offered.”
The annual meal is a continuation of a promise Pelayo made to his mother to help his community.
“I will do it as long as the community stays behind me,” said Pelayo, who said he begins to cook the turkeys and freeze them up to three weeks in advance in order to have them ready. “It feels good.”
Pelayo each year receives help from the public, who drop off turkeys and financial donations, and vendors donate some supplies to the meal. Local businesses also have come together to help with the meal by making donations, Rose said. Several people have even asked for memorial contributions to be made to the meal in 2020, Rose said, which is appreciated.
“We are most thankful for all the donations,” Rose said.
Any leftover food from the day is immediately donated to the Bethany Center in Piqua and St. Patrick Soup Kitchen in Troy, according to Pelayo.
“Whatever is left, it goes to the soup kitchens,” said Pelayo, who also supports both with monthly meat donations. “It serves the same purpose, feeding those who need it.”