WEST PARK — In this recent economic downturn, many families desiring a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner did not have that option. However, staff and volunteers from Feeding South Florida Mobile Food Pantry helped make it possible for residents in West Park to have a free meal to celebrate the holiday, and it came to them. The nonprofit agency, whose main warehouse is based in Pembroke Park, serves Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, and provided produce for the city’s annual Thanksgiving dinner held Wednesday, Nov. 25 at Mary Saunders Park, 4750 SW 21st St., West Park.

Eric H. Jones, Jr., the mayor of West Park, said even though the dinner is held only once a year, he thinks that it makes an important contribution to the community. “There are always people that are in need,” he said. “Even though it’s not consistently done, it’s just the thought of someone having enough care, that we can show how much we care at least on a small scale.”

Jones, who has been the mayor of West Park (formerly known as Carver Ranches) for the past ten years, said that many organizations partnered with the city to help sponsor the Thanksgiving dinner, which has been held for about 30 years. “The city helped sponsor the event to make sure that everyone who comes will be served,” he said. “And we get quite a few people every year.”

Feeding South Florida also partners with many agencies throughout the year to help feed people year-round in the four counties, according to Sari Vatske, vice president of community relations. “Collaboration is at the center of what we do. We have approximately 325 partner agencies throughout Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties,” she said. “Our partner agencies hold regular distributions for their clients in need of food assistance. With so many partners, we are able to ensure that the communities in need of assistance receive it”

Vatske said each year Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s office helps support the West Park event which serves about 1,000 families. Vatske said that the city hosts the annual dinner and gets the turkeys donated.

“(The meals) may actually alleviate some of the situations that might prevail,” Jones said. “And that’s not just in West Park but all over.”

Jones said although the city may be “in the black” budget wise, there still may be some residents in need. “We don’t screen anyone (at the Thanksgiving dinner),” he said. “Whoever comes, we try to help. The food is just a small portion of it. It’s the mindset that’s going to make a difference.”

It’s the little things at home that could be great things in other places, so it’s important to be grateful, Jones said.

“Thanksgiving at its origination was about thanking God for the blessings of this new country,” he said. “And I think that moving forward, we have a lot to be thankful for. We might have problems in certain areas, but they’re minor when you consider what’s happening worldwide.”

For information about Feeding South Florida Mobile Food Pantry or to make a donation call (954) 518-1818 or email: contact@feedingsouthflorida.org.