Eduardo and Eve Aguilera had much to be thankful for Thursday and wanted to share it with their church community, Christian Center of Fort Worth.
So they drove 27 hours from their new home in Sacramento, Calif., back to Tarrant County to participate in and help with the church's 25th annual Thanksgiving dinner and grocery donation for those in need.
On a brisk afternoon the sun beamed down on Eduardo Aguilera's recently purchased silver 2001 BMW, and he flashed a smile just as bright as he showed his new wheels to a fellow member of the Haltom City church.
"Everything is working," said Eduardo, 60. "It's a blessing, man."
Eve, 56, said her husband's vehicle purchase and the truck-driving job he recently landed in Sacramento would not have been possible without the support of the church, especially after his license was suspended in Florida.
"They helped us financially and in prayer," she said.
The couple joined the congregation a year and a half ago after they were married by the church's pastor, Steve Vanzant. They've lived in California for less than a month.
On Thursday, Vanzant said the Aguileras' story helped make the annual Thanksgiving event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., more about love and support, with the meal as a sidebar.
"They come here because they know we care. Not just for the food," Vanzant said of attendees in general. "We have the round tables set up instead of long tables. That brings people closer together. They can talk amongst each other."
Vanzant went from table to table in the church's gymnasium greeting about 300 people with a smile and conversation. In all the church expected to feed nearly 1,000 people.
Residents began arriving at around 7:45 a.m. to get a spot in line. By 11 a.m., hundreds had gathered and the line wrapped around the front of the building in the 4300 block of Northeast 28th Street.
As the crowd moved inside, table hosts directed them to lines serving hot food and a second line for desserts. Once they were seated, the host would help parents get their children situated and fetch beverages for everyone at the table.
"We have people working in and people working outside in the parking lot," said Vanzant. "Like I tell people we're pretty much organized chaos."
On the opposite side of the building, volunteers packed grocery bags with fresh vegetables and other food items to give residents. In the room next door, volunteers stocked racks with clean clothes that residents could also pick up for free.
"Every Tuesday we give out groceries and every Wednesday we give out clothing year-round," said Vanzant. "A lot of folks who attend this [meal] will need their groceries as well. Last Tuesday we didn't give out because we save it for Thursday to help everybody. But the truth is we just want to help folks."
The meal tends to draw a variety of people in the community, not just the less fortunate.
"You have families who started coming when probably back when they didn't have as much finances," said Vanzant. "Now, here it is 15 years later they still come on Thanksgiving because, man, our food is good."
The food is donated by the Tarrant Area Food Bank, with partnerships with Blue Apron, Amazon Fresh, Sam's Club and more. The church also received monetary donations from the Haltom City Fire Department.
"And we have others in the community that rally around us," said Vanzant. "And between all that, a lot of it we purchase."
By 1:15 p.m., the gymnasium was emptied out with only volunteers left, smiling and joking between breaking down tables.
Preparation for next month's Christmas dinner, which includes a visit from Santa Claus and free toys for kids 10 and under, begins soon. The church will open it's doors on Monday morning to begin taking new toy and monetary donations.
The Aguileras stayed behind to talk and help with the cleanup. They'll be in town until Monday before driving back to Sacramento.
Eduardo said after all the help the church has given them, it was important to share a meal with friends and contribute what they could.
"It's important to give back and give something to the Lord and be grateful," said Eduardo. "Because he's keeping me and my wife safe at home and on the road."