SANTA CRUZ -- The community Thanksgiving meal won't be held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium this year due to organizers getting a late start on planning, according to Mayor Don Lane.
Instead, a downsized dinner will be offered at the Homeless Services Center, as well as other locations throughout the county.
A record 1,200 people were served at the volunteer-run event last year, with 60 turkeys and various sides available to community members in need. The Homeless Services Center has enough food to serve 350 people this year, said the center's community operations manager Megan Carlson.
Lane said this year's organizers for the community Thanksgiving dinner started planning too late, which led to them cancel a larger gathering in the Civic Auditorium.
"It seemed like the people who normally organize the event didn't have the ball rolling early enough," Lane said.
Despite the hitch, Carlson said the Homeless Services Center hopes Thanksgiving Day will run smoothly.
"We're just going to do our best to serve every person we can," Carlson said. "We're serving people who don't have anywhere else to go."
Carlson said it's important for people to realize that the Homeless Services Center's Thanksgiving meal isn't the actual annual community Thanksgiving meal, which has been a Santa Cruz tradition for more than 25 years. The gathering, which was traditionally held at the Veterans Memorial Building by local organization Friends of Thanksgiving, was moved after the center closed in 2010.
"We just want to make sure that people have a place to go, and I think that Santa Cruz has a great tradition of providing a Thanksgiving meal for people in need on that day," Carlson said.
Due to the gathering's diminished size, organizers said they don't plan to advertise for the event as they have in years past. Nevertheless, they're still looking for volunteers to cook, serve and clean up for the feast. So far, more than 60 people have volunteered for this year's event.
"I'm confident more people will show up to volunteer on Thanksgiving," Carlson said.
The Homeless Services Shelter feeds 160 to 220 people per day, and typically closes for holiday meals. Since the location can only seat 65 people at a time to eat, the center also will host activities during the Thanksgiving meal.
The day will include a chess tournament, arts and crafts, and a shoe and sock giveaway.
"We are going to make the day festive just so people have things to do rather than stand in line," Carlson said. "We're much smaller than the Civic Auditorium or the Veterans Hall."
Lane said he wants to see the annual Thanksgiving dinner return to its initial size next year despite this year's downsizing.
"I think there's a lot of hope that the Veterans Hall will be back in service a year from now," Lane said. "That would mean that the old, traditional Thanksgiving would be back in business."
Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter at Twitter.com/bhorgos
If You Go
Homeless Services Center's community Thanksgiving
What: The Homeless Services Center is hosting a community Thanksgiving that can serve up to 350 people. In addition to food, there also will be a chess tournament, arts and crafts, and a shoe and sock giveaway.
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday
Where: Homeless Services Center, 115 B Coral St., Santa Cruz
Details: www.scshelter.org, 458-6020
SwingTime Cafe's Thanksgiving
What: Eighth annual Thanksgiving meal at Hansen Temporary Park.
When: Noon to 2 p.m. Thursday
Where: Hansen Temporary Park, 447 Main St Watsonville
Details: www.swingtimecafe.com, 786-0812
Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner
What: Cafe Gratitude's free Thanksgiving meal will include a raw and vegan feast including a beverage, entree and dessert.
When: Noon to 3 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cafe Gratitude, 103 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz
Details: www.cafegratitude.com, 427-9583
Salvation Army Thanksgiving Meal
What: This Thanksgiving meal is served at the Salvation Army and supports homeless and low income individuals in the Watsonville community.
When: 1-6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Salvation Army, 112 Grant St., Watsonville
Details: 724-3922, ext. 201
Editor's note: Swingtime Cafe's Thanksgiving will be held at Hansen Temporary Park and this year's event marks its eighth annual event. That information was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.