Fort Worth Metro, police offer free Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need

More than 170 families lined up outside Carter Park Elementary School in Fort Worth on Monday to get turkeys to take home for Thanksgiving, handed out by nonprofit Fort Worth Metro and Fort Worth police.

As families stood waiting their turn, police officers and Fort Worth Metro’s leader, Ruth Calzada, walked up and down the line, talking to parents and children. Calzada spent most of her time mingling with people, giving hugs when she ran into someone she knows (which included most of the people there) and dancing with children and their parents.

The families had three stops to make during the event: a fajita buffet set up by Rio Bravo, a Tex-Mex restaurant from La Gran Plaza; a table where they could sign up for help from Fort Worth Metro providing Christmas gifts for children; and a third line where Fort Worth police command staff handed out frozen turkeys for the upcoming holiday.

“In this area, a lot of these folks can feel not noticed, not loved,” Ruth Calzada told the Star-Telegram. “We want to make sure they know they are noticed, they are loved.”

Before the event started, Ruth Calzada told the volunteers and police that the 173 turkeys may not be enough, but that Fort Worth Metro would make sure anybody who needed one would get one. The same for the Christmas gifts: Fort Worth Metro was prepared to provided around 300 toys to children from families in need this year, but would find a way to make it work if they had more requests than that.

Before the event Monday, Fort Worth Metro had already seen 165 people sign up for assistance in giving children Christmas gifts.

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Buddy Calzada, a police public information officer and Ruth Calzada’s husband, said the turkeys weren’t just for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“A lot of these kids here rely on school meals for breakfast and lunch,” Buddy Calzada said. “So these turkeys aren’t just for family Thanksgiving dinner. They’ll sustain these families, these kids, for the whole Thanksgiving break, when they can’t get those school meals.”

Isai Victoria, the manager and a chef at Rio Bravo, said the restaurant brought around 200 pounds of chicken and beef fajitas to the event, along with rice, beans and tortillas, enough for around 450 meals. Less than an hour after things kicked off, he was calling the restaurant to bring out another 450 meals worth of fajitas.

“It’s cool to see the smiles on face,” Victoria said. “I love that. Feeding people who might be in need, especially during this season, is something special. This is the season to be generous. It’s the season to give.”

Ruth Calzada said that events like this are especially fulfilling.

Fort Worth Metro has been around for nearly 30 years, meaning a lot of parents who were stopping by for fajitas and turkeys while they picked their children up from school are familiar faces. She’s known a good number of the parents since they were Carter Park Elementary students themselves.