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20121117 PENITAS Buckner feeds colonia 0112Volunteers help serve a hot turkey dinner to colonia residents at the Buckner Community Transformation Center. Buckner served meals to area families and gave them a meal to take home.PEÑITAS—Children and parents stood on a makeshift stage here, Saturday evening, and expressed what they were most thankful for at a festival held at the Buckner Community Transformation Center. Attendees enjoyed a hot turkey dinner with hundreds of their neighbors and friends.

Buckner International is a non-profit global Christian ministry that seeks to make life better for orphans, vulnerable children and families. Currently, the group handles work with two Peñitas colonias, Pueblo de Palmas and Taurus 21, through their Buckner Community Transformation Center located at 39614 Mile 7 Road, Ste. 3 in Peñitas.

In part with eating dinner, children were able to play games, enjoy a moon jump and get their faces painted. Each participant was also asked to write what they are thankful for on paper leaves, and then children and parents were called to the stage to read their notes allowed.

Community Coordinator Jana Lopez explained the event was created for the colonia’s occupants to feel a sense of togetherness.

“This is the first time we have ever done something like this,” Lopez said. “We are trying to build the community here to have a sense of pride for where they come from.”

The center provided the community with over 250 bagged meals that included: corn oil, frozen chicken, rice, beans and more basic items.

Lopez said they received a lot of support from local organizations and businesses, she added Junior’s Supermarket helped in lowering cost of food for the bagged meals. City officials also lent a helping hand to the event.

Peñitas Mayor Marcos Ochoa and Council Member Tony Flores Jr. were in attendance with two officers of the Peñitas Police Department and City Secretary Ana Cantu.

Ochoa welcomed the families and said he and his wife enjoyed their time helping out, serving meals to their community.

“We are here to serve you…it has been a joy to be here with you,” Ochoa said in Spanish as he addressed the event.

Ochoa added the City of Peñitas would be holding a toy drive on Dec. 8, which will also double as a community event for the city.

Buckner also received assistance from La Joya ISD students and University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) students. UTPA volunteer Joseph Miranda said the event was a great experience.

“It has been really nice, when you see the kids excited and everyone together…. It has been fun,” Miranda said.

Lopez said though this is the first event of its kind, she believes it will not be the last. The turnout was more than anyone projected, said Lopez, who was happy to see people of the area enjoying the festivities and taking advantage of the free goods.

“It has been a complete success…like the Buckner motto says, ‘Hope shines here,’” Lopez said.

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