St. Felix Pantry Vice President of Development Rachael Miletkov hands menus to a guest at the free drive-thru community Thanksgiving meal at the Garza McDonald’s on Thursday.
Argen Duncan/Observer

More than 1,200 people drove through McDonald’s for the 28th annual community Thanksgiving meal, which had a different flavor this year, on Thursday.
St. Felix Pantry and the Garza family McDonald’s in Rio Rancho have partnered to provide free Thanksgiving meals to anyone who needs or wants one every year. This Thanksgiving, the meal was drive-thru only for COVID safety and served traditional McDonald’s fare to meet requirements that food be cooked in a certified kitchen.

St. Felix Pantry President and CEO Sister Angela Parkins, left, and Sister Juanita Szymanski watch the activity.
Photo Argen Duncan/Observer

“We’re just happy we could provide some semblance of comfort at a time when everyone is hurting,” said McDonald’s franchisee Clemy Garza.
Meal service was set to start at 10 a.m., but she said cars were lined up when she arrived at 8:30. Once her crew had food ready, they started serving at 9:30, with two lines of cars trailing off the property.
Local leaders came to wave at motorists, and McDonald’s employees brought food outside to anyone arriving without a vehicle.
“Our goal was to not turn anyone away,” said Garza, who runs the restaurant with her father, Julian Garza.
She said the event had a feeling of joy, with diners thanking the staff and volunteers.
Pantry board member Alex Rich and her husband volunteered at the meal.
“Obviously Thanksgiving is different this year, and I’ve been very blessed in my personal life,” she said.
With their family not gathering, the couple decided giving back was a good way to celebrate.
St. Felix Pantry Vice President of Development Rachael Miletkov said pantry representatives are grateful for the partnership with McDonald’s, without which they couldn’t offer a hot meal.

Drivers line up at the drive-thru to wait for their McDonald’s meals for Thanksgiving.
Photo Argen Duncan/Observer

Along with St. Felix staff members, 15 volunteers greeted people and directed traffic, and 21 McDonald’s employees cooked and served food.
“God really provided good weather for us and excellent, excellent staff here. They really need to be commended for all the work they did,” said pantry President and CEO Sister Angela Parkins, adding that she was also grateful to the volunteers.