Roswell Job Corps Center students and instructors sort canned foods Wednesday morning at Veterans Memorial Hall in preparation for Johnny Gonzales’ free Thanksgiving Dinner that takes place today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Noah Vernau Photo
Roswell Job Corps Center students and instructors spent Wednesday morning helping the Community Volunteer Program prepare for its 33rd annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which takes place today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at American Legion Post 28 Veterans Memorial Hall, 1620 N. Montana. The students, who will also help serve food, volunteered to sort canned goods and arrange the facility for the dinner.
Painting instructor Robert Gibson said 28 students were set to learn trades Wednesday but immediately offered their time to CVP when asked if they would help. He said many students are from large metropolitan areas like Denver, Dallas and El Paso and are unable to travel home for the holidays.
“We have some awesome kids. These kids are very respectful,” Gibson said. “They come from communities and backgrounds that aren’t so well, but they were willing to give to this community.
“And this happens all the time. These kids will jump on the opportunity to volunteer — not just to get away from the center but because they get a sense of belonging to the community even though they’re not from here.”
Job Corps students learning painting, electrical and plumbing trades also helped recently with remodeling efforts at the facility, Gibson said.
Dallas resident and Job Corps student Sh’michael Barnes said students remodeled the parking lot, fixed the sprinkler system and the plumbing.
He said students were more than happy to come back to the facility and help CVP with the dinner when asked Wednesday.
“I guess most people who came today can understand what it’s like not to have a Thanksgiving and to not have a home and whatever,” Barnes said. “I guess those people just really understand and wanted to help out.
“I’m happy to be here and just help, come out here and give people food who need food.”
Barnes, who has been with Job Corps for four months, said the training program offered him a chance to make big changes in his life. “It gives me new opportunities. To get my OSHA 10, which I recently got — it gives me new opportunities to get jobs, and more knowledge on whatever I want to do in life. It keeps me out of trouble, and keeps me on that one track.”
Job Corps coordinator JoAnne Lopez said community is integral to Job Corps. “As the community gives to us, it’s just awesome for us to give back. We absolutely love it.”
Gibson said the culinary arts department also made a large cake for those at the dinner who have birthdays in November, and that the color guard from the protective services trade will present the flag before dinner.
CVP leader Johnny Gonzales said he couldn’t have put his Thanksgiving event together without the helping hands provided by Job Corps. He called their work a “labor of love and a work of faith,” and said he expects today’s dinner will feed about 800 people.