AUSTIN (KXAN) — This year’s Austin-area Feast of Sharing kicks off at the Palmer Events Center at 4 p.m. Tuesday, marking the 30th year H-E-B has hosted the free Thanksgiving meal.
It also marks the 30th year Betty Smiley Gibson has volunteered at the event.
“I started volunteering when I was going through some problems with my life,” Gibson told KXAN. “And my grandmother always taught me if somebody helped you, you in turn helped somebody else who is in your same situation.”
Gibson started working for H-E-B in 1986 and looked for every volunteer opportunity she could find. When the chain started the Feast of Sharing, she started, too.
“It fosters hope in the community,” she said. “We should be encouraging. We should offer hope. We should help people when they are in need.”
Volunteers like Gibson serve up about 3,000 pounds of turkey each year, along with 2,500 pounds of stuffing, 750 pumpkin pies, 380 gallons of mashed potatoes, and 140 gallons of gravy. The event, which is free to everyone looking for a hot meal, also includes live music and family-friendly activities.
About 13,000 people are expected to show up for the meal.
This year H-E-B is also offering free flu shots while they last, plus free one-day Capital Metro bus passes to help people get to the Palmer Events Center.
Passes are available at the following H-E-B locations:
- 2701 E. Seventh Street
- 6607 S. IH 35
- 1000 E. 41st Street
- 2400 S. Congress Ave.
- 7112 Ed Bluestein
- 2508 E. Riverside Drive
- 9414 N. Lamar Blvd.
- 1801 E. 51st Street
The event has become a tradition not just for the city of Austin, but for Gibson’s family, as well. This year her daughter and granddaughters are volunteering, too.
“I brought them in to let them understand it isn’t always about you,” she said.
It’s going to be a long, tiring evening for the family, but Gibson said it’s worth it every year.
“People will be served and helped, and that’s the goal of it,” she said. “It’s always to help others, because you never know when you are going to fall in that situation where you need the help.”