ST. GEORGE – Each Thanksgiving, Red Rock Canyon School opens its doors and hosts a free dinner for the community. Anyone is invited to attend, be it for dinner or as a volunteer. Attendance has steadily grown in recent years. Last year it’s estimated that around 2,000 people participated and were fed at the Thanksgiving dinner.
“Last year was the highest (turnout) we’re ever had,” owner of Red Rock Canyon School, Frank Habibian, said.
His staff began preparing for the dinner this past Thursday, Habibian said, assigning who will tend to this or that duty between now and Thanksgiving Day. The school’s staff aren’t the only ones who help out, though, as many people from across the community come out to volunteer. Others also donate funds and food toward the dinner.
“Everybody comes and helps,” Habibian said. He’s had city officials, police officers and local banks lend a hand in one form or another over the years, he said.
One year a local business donated 50 turkeys to the dinner, while last year, an elderly woman showed up at the dinner with a pot of homemade soup to share, he said.
“We don’t turn people away,” Habibian said, speaking of the people who come for the dinner and those who help provide, prepare and serve it.
The Thanksgiving dinner at Red Rock Canyon School is an event open to the entire community, Habibian said, from people who may be down on their luck to college students who may not be able to go home for the holiday and everyone in between.
Red Rock Canyon School is a youth treatment center located at 747 East St. George Blvd, St. George. The Thanksgiving Day dinner runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – or longer depending on attendance. The school can be contacted at 435-674-6111.
Where it began
The community dinner continues a 40-plus year tradition that started when Habibian was an exchange student attending high school in the United States. He previously shared with St. George News that, as a native of Iran, he knew little about the Thanksgiving holiday or its significance. That changed when the family he was staying with shared their Thanksgiving with him during a time he had been feeling homesick and lonely.
The event left a powerful impression, Habibian said, and added that the feeling of love he felt that day has never been never be forgotten.
Since then, Habibian said, he has continued the tradition of sharing Thanksgiving with others.
Though the Red Rock school tradition may have originated with him, Habibian said full credit belongs to the community for its help in making the school’s dinner successful.
“I want everyone in this town to know I appreciate their help,” Habibian said. A community coming together to help each other “is what America is about,” he said.
People who wish to volunteer are encouraged to contact the Volunteer Center of Washington County at 435-674-5757 for details. The center is located at 1070 West 1600 South, St. George.
- When: Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Where: Red Rock Canyon School, 747 East St. George, St. George
- Admission: Free to the public
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