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A woman's promise keeps the Joe Salem dinner going

Posted at 8:30 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 21:46:12-05

For the past 25 years, Lisa Saenz has helped run the Joe Salem Thanksgiving Dinner.

Salem told her the idea was inspired by feeding friends on Thanksgiving while working for a local newspaper as a teenager. He decided, if he can feed all of his friends, he can do something bigger and better,

Saenz said one Thanksgiving, Salem asked to speak with her. She thought she was in trouble, but he then asked her to make him a promise.

"When he was getting sick, he asked me to make a promise, and that promise was he asked me to please make sure this goes on," Saenz said. "I'm a woman of my word and I told him, 'Mr. Salem, so long as my body allows me to, I'll do it as long as I can.' "

Saenz and her team still serve Salem's preferred turkey legs instead of a traditional whole turkey, keeping everything the way he wanted it, down to the second.

"He was very particular about thing, and one thing that will always follow: lunch begins at 12 o'clock. Not 11:59, not 12:01, it's 12 o'clock," Saenz said.

Saenz isn't the only one who has stayed loyal to Salem's memory. More than 30 of the volunteers have been alongside her for over a decade.

They invite everyone to come to the Sokol Gym and join them for the 76th Annual Joe Salem Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday.