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A familiar refrain this Thanksgiving: ‘I miss the togetherness’

Service coordinator Laurel Martindale places Thanksgiving meals in the trunk of a military family’s vehicle.
Service coordinator Laurel Martindale places Thanksgiving meals in the trunk of a military family’s vehicle during a drive-thru distribution event hosted by Lincoln Military Housing on Thanksgiving Day.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Families opt for Zoom calls and smaller dinner celebrations on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving was different this year. There were smaller turkeys roasting in the oven, fewer place settings at the dinner table, more drive-thru meal distributions and Zoom calls with relatives all over the country.

These altered celebrations come as the region faces a surge in new COVID-19 infections and the state is under a nighttime curfew meant to slow the spread. Days ahead of the holiday health officials cautioned against large gatherings and urged residents to avoid traveling.

Still, San Diegans found a way to be together during a year when some need it most.

San Diego Catering workers Norma Gutierrez, Leslie Gutierrez, and Jocelyn Bajaras package meals for military families.
San Diego Catering workers Norma Gutierrez, Leslie Gutierrez, and Jocelyn Bajaras package meals for military families during a drive-thru distribution event hosted by Lincoln Military Housing on Thanksgiving.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

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“This is the first time I don’t cook,” Briyitte Uribe said, laughing. She sat in her car waiting for volunteers with Lincoln Military Housing to place a prepared turkey dinner and a care package for her husband, who is in the Navy, in her backseat.

Uribe’s husband is in quarantine at a nearby hotel before he goes on deployment on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This was their family’s first Thanksgiving apart.

“It’s really hard,” Uribe said, her voice breaking. “He’s right here.”

Cindy Farless, regional community services director of Lincoln Military Housing, loads a car with food.
Cindy Farless, regional community services director of Lincoln Military Housing, hands items to Sarah Torres and her children.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Uribe was one of 75 military families who received meals from Lincoln Military Housing in Mira Mesa. The housing provider traditionally hosts a large dinner for families with deployed service members to give spouses and children a sense of togetherness, organizers said.

But this year they opted to distribute individual meals instead because of restrictions on gatherings.

“COVID’s added an extra layer of separation,” said Cindy Farless, regional community services director for Lincoln Military Housing.

Military families are used to being apart on holidays, Farless said, but the annual dinner was a nice way to help families, many of who are new to San Diego, feel a part of a community.

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Uribe was thankful for the meal and said she hoped to make the best out of the holiday for her two young daughters.

Earlier in the morning hundreds wrapped around three blocks in downtown for to-go Thanksgiving Day meals from the Salvation Army San Diego. The organization has hosted a holiday meal event at Golden Hall for nearly 30 years but switched gears because of the pandemic.

Juan Ortiz was one of those people. He stood in line next to Little Anne, an energetic rescue dog that keeps him company. Ortiz typically spends the holiday at his sister’s 比特币交易网home in La Mesa for a turkey dinner but the family decided to skip it this year to be safe.

“It’s sad,” Ortiz said, about missing out on the annual family gathering. “I miss the togetherness.”

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Ortiz, who lives in subsidized housing in downtown, said it seemed like a lot of work, and food, to cook for himself for Thanksgiving, so he opted to get a small meal from the Salvation Army.

Despite the change, Ortiz said he felt thankful.

Salvation Army volunteers said this year is different for them, too, because they are used to seeing people enjoy their meals inside Golden Hall. Instead, they distributed food quickly and had short conversations with some people who they have known for years.

Del Mar resident Sarah Carey drove to downtown early in the morning to volunteer for the distribution. She was joined by her two kids Gillian, 14, and Truman, 12.

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The family takes advantage of Thanksgiving break and typically plans a trip outside the United States. Last year they went to South Korea and ditched the turkey to eat local food.

This year will be the first time in a long time the Carey family sits down for a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. The kids were excited and dad was at 比特币交易网home cooking a turkey while they passed out meals to 比特币交易网homeless San Diegans.

Thanksgiving was also different for tourists.

Yeimi Rodriguez from Lancaster drove with her husband and two children to San Diego. Rodriguez was not too disappointed about missing a traditional dinner this year — mostly because it released her of fried turkey cooking responsibilities.

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Rodriguez picked up an order of house-smoked turkey breast, mashed potatoes and a pie from SideYard BBQ by HottMess in Barrio Logan.

Dennis O’Connor, co-owner of SideYard BBQ by HottMess, hands a takeout order of beer to a customer on Thanksgiving.
Dennis O’Connor,co-owner of SideYard BBQ by HottMess, hands a takeout order of beer to a customer on Thanksgiving.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The restaurant offered outdoor and to-go orders with a special menu for Thanksgiving. Co-owner Dennis O’Connor said they had reservations in the afternoon for groups of family and friends who wanted to celebrate outdoors.

The restaurant was not as busy as the owners had expected, which they attributed to people actually doing what health officials asked — staying 比特币交易网home.

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Encinitas resident Beverly Goodman spent Thanksgiving Day with virtual company. She had a turkey empanada while speaking with family members from Massachusetts over Zoom.

Dennis O’Connor, co-owner of SideYard BBQ by HottMess, hands a takeout order to Yeimi Rodriguez on Thanksgiving.
Dennis O’Connor, co-owner of SideYard BBQ by HottMess, hands a takeout order to Yeimi Rodriguez on Thanksgiving.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Goodman usually spends the holiday with friends, but this was the first time in nearly 30 years that she was going to have Thanksgiving dinner with family. She said she wasn’t upset about celebrating differently Thursday.

“I feel like it’s the right thing to do,” Goodman said. “I don’t have any qualms about it. It is what it is.”


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