CANBY, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of people poured into Baker Prairie Middle School Saturday night for a free pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Organized by the non-profit Bridging Cultures, the annual event is meant to bring families, friends and neighbors of all backgrounds together.
“I have seen so many relationships start with Bridging Cultures,” board member Magda Moreno said. “That’s what I have fallen in love with is that they work so hard about bringing the community together, making it feel as a single community instead of having so many subgroups.”
Bridging Cultures has been around for more than 20 years, starting when a group of people started handing out free sandwiches to people living around Canby’s Locust Street Park. It quickly grew into the summertime festivities known as Saturday in the Park. But longtime volunteer Steve Masingila said they wanted to continue to build community engagement even after summer ended. So about 10 years ago, they started the Día de Acción de Gracias dinner.
Yolanda Sanchez, another longtime volunteer, said they started cooking the day before and made enough to feed 500 people. It includes traditional Mexican food, as well as turkey and mashed potatoes.
Anyone and everyone is invited to the free meal. Masingila said they’ve even had people from other countries stop in for dinner while they were in the area.
Melody Boyce from West Linn attended for the first time this year. She came with her son and grandchildren. Now she thinks they’ll make it a yearly tradition.
“I love it. Anything multicultural I think is fantastic,” she said. “I think every year we’re going to do this.”
Canby Mayor Brian Hodson said he tries to make it every year because his children are in the dual-language immersion class at a local elementary school.
“It’s an important piece for our family just in terms of language and cultures,” Hodson said. “Really it’s just getting to see the whole community come together, have dinner, listen to some great music.”
Bridging Cultures also offers ESL classes, STEAM classes for fourth graders, and immigration information nights.
“People from other cities they will tell me, ‘Oh I would love if something like this was part of our town or part of our city,’” Moreno said. “So I know that is something very unique that we have.”
Board member Heladio Vera said the organization is growing, and is open to new board members.
We really need everybody to “step in, volunteer and bring either skills, knowledge (or) strength,” Vera said. “I think everybody has potential to bring something to the table to make this organization an even greater organization than it is today.”