H-E-B fed more than 5,000 people as part of its fifth annual Feast of Sharing Dinner at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center on Tuesday. The event, which was free for the public, is part of a holiday dinner program H-E-B started in 1988.
The program feeds more than 250,000 meals in 32 locations in the U.S. and Mexico every year. In addition to the free meal, H-E-B provided entertainment and onsite children’s activities.
“It’s just part of our community support,” said Rudy Gill, general manager at the H-E-B store on Trimmier Road in Killeen. “This is how we show support to the community, and how we celebrate the holiday spirit.”
Locally, H-E-B served 1,250 pounds of glazed ham, 1,250 pounds of mashed potatoes and 1,100 pounds of vegetables. The grocery chain added 100 gallons of gravy, 500 apple pies and free soft drinks to help wash it all down.
After five years serving as the chairman for the event, Gill said he and his crew of H-E-B partners and citizen volunteers run the feast like a well-oiled machine.
“It is going really well,” Gill said about an hour into the event. “We feel really good about what we are doing and the fact that it is for anybody. We want it to be a free meal for the entire Killeen-Fort Hood community.”
Jerry Broughton, a retired principal, is one community member who appreciates what H-E-B is doing. He brought his 5-year-old twins, Jerred and Jerrod, to enjoy the free dinner and activities.
“We are really enjoying it,” said Broughton. “I frequently shop at H-E-B, and the customer service is always great. I thought this was an excellent idea. I wanted to be here not only to support it, but to show I appreciate what they are doing.”
Broughton was hesitant to attend at first, but now he thinks he will be back next year.
“Once I found out it wasn’t only for the needy, but for the entire community, I decided to give it a try,” he said. “For them to do this around the holidays is very special.”
It was the third time volunteering at the feast for Sandra O’Brien of Killeen accounting firm Lott, Vernon and Co.
She was accompanied by her sister Cyndi Rowe and niece Miranda Gonzales, who also are regular volunteers at the event.
She said there is a simple reason she comes back every year. “I am a community servant,” she said. “I like to serve the community, and I feel this event does a great job representing the community.”
Gonzales, a Killeen ISD teacher, hoped she would run into some of her students while helping serve dinner. “It really helps us set an example for them,” she said.