Fes­tive time at Feast of Shar­ing

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - metro - By Liz Teitz STAFF WRITER

Hol­i­day food, time with fam­ily are part of an­nual event

A long line snaked through Hall 3 at the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter on Satur­day af­ter­noon, as H-E-B em­ploy­ees and vol­un­teers waited to pick up trays laden with din­ner plates and pieces of pie.

As they passed through green and red cur­tains, more vol­un­teers waited to di­rect them, point­ing to­ward rows of ta­bles where guests waited to be served.

Oth­ers wound through the crowded aisles, pass­ing out soda and wa­ter or pour­ing cups of cof­fee to the thou­sands of peo­ple who turned out for the an­nual HE-B Feast of Shar­ing for a fes­tive

meal and en­ter­tain­ment.

Kathleen Effly, 65, who wore a green and red string of tin­sel around her neck, said she has been com­ing to the event “ever since they started.”

“I used to help,” she said, vol­un­teer­ing to pass out plates and drinks, but she isn’t able to walk as much any­more. “So now I’m a sit­ter.”

“I love see­ing peo­ple shar­ing the feast with friends,” she said.

Priscilla Clark watched as her grand­daugh­ter wrote a let­ter to Santa at one of sev­eral sta­tions for kids, in­clud­ing pic­tures with Santa and crafts.

Clark, 56, who was with her daugh­ter and two grand­daugh­ters, was ex­cited about an af­ter­noon of “time with the fam­ily.”

While they live to­gether, Clark is usu­ally rush­ing between her home health care jobs, and they don’t get to spend much time to­gether, she said. This was her first year at­tend­ing the din­ner, she said. “This is very qual­ity time,” she said.

Cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas at the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter is an an­nual tra­di­tion for Devin Hel­ton, 49, and his mother.

“We don’t have much fam­ily here,” he said, so the Feast of Shar­ing is a way to spend the holi- day with oth­ers.

“The peo­ple are friendly, and the food is good,” Hel­ton said, prais­ing the ham, mashed pota­toes and ap­ple pie. His mother likes to lis­ten to the mu­si­cal per­for­mances, and she said it’s nice “to have some place to go.”

The chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties at the Feast are the draw ev­ery year for Sylvia Martinez, 58, and her friends and fam­ily, she said. Her grand­chil­dren wrote let­ters to Santa and headed off to get their faces painted.

For many of the vol­un­teers and H-E-B em­ploy­ees, serv­ing at the Feast is an an­nual tra­di­tion, too.

Pa­tri­cia Ger­ald said she and other mem­bers of her church have been com­ing for seven or eight years. A sign that read “be­lieve in your elf ” bounced on her red and green head­band as she wove between ta­bles.

“I like in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple” while pass­ing out food, she said. “And I like to walk around danc­ing, and they like to dance with me.”

H-E-B, which started the free hol­i­day din­ners in Laredo and Cor­pus Christi in 1989, now serves over 250,000 meals dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son at feasts in 24 Texas cities.

In ad­di­tion to food and en­ter­tain­ment, flu shots and eye screen­ings were avail­able. More than 10,000 peo­ple at­tended the feast, H-E-B spokes­woman Julie Bed­ing­field said, and 3,400 meals were de­liv­ered through Meals on Wheels.

Robin Jer­stad / Con­trib­u­tor

Vol­un­teer Ruth Creighton wel­comes peo­ple to the H-E-B Feast of Shar­ing at the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. The Feast is an an­nual tra­di­tion for some par­tic­i­pants, as well as vol­un­teers and H-E-B em­ploy­ees.

Hal Cranston calls for drinks to be served dur­ing the Feast. In ad­di­tion to food and en­ter­tain­ment there, flu shots and eye screen­ings were avail­able.

Robin Jer­stad / Con­trib­u­tor

Santa Claus makes an ap­pear­ance dur­ing the an­nual H-E-B Feast of Shar­ing at the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. The event of­fered sev­eral sta­tions for kids, in­clud­ing pic­tures with Santa and crafts.

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