H-E-B Center at Cedar Park to be local hub for free meal deliveries on Thanksgiving

Brandon and Lizzy Simon, seen with their napping one-year-old daughter, Madlen, will serve as volunteer managers for Operation Turkey at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Thanksgiving Day. The nonprofit, which started in Austin in 2000, will be delivering free turkey dinners—no questions asked—to Cedar Park, Leander and surrounding areas Nov. 28.
Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper
Brandon and Lizzy Simon, seen with their napping one-year-old daughter, Madlen, will serve as volunteer managers for Operation Turkey at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Thanksgiving Day. The nonprofit, which started in Austin in 2000, will be delivering free turkey dinners—no questions asked—to Cedar Park, Leander and surrounding areas Nov. 28. Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper

Brandon and Lizzy Simon, seen with their napping one-year-old daughter, Madlen, will serve as volunteer managers for Operation Turkey at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Thanksgiving Day. The nonprofit, which started in Austin in 2000, will be delivering free turkey dinners—no questions asked—to Cedar Park, Leander and surrounding areas Nov. 28. Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper

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On Thanksgiving Day, H-E-B Center at Cedar Park will transform from an entertainment venue to a community service hub.

From 8-11 a.m., volunteers from Operation Turkey will be preparing and delivering Thanksgiving dinners at the center to homes and businesses from Liberty Hill to Taylor.

This marks the second year that Round Rock residents Brandon and Lizzy Simon have been volunteer managers at the Cedar Park hub—one of four in the Austin area—for the nonprofit.

What cities does the Cedar Park location of Operation Turkey serve?

Lizzy
: We do Cedar Park, Leander, Round Rock, Hutto, Taylor, Georgetown, Liberty Hill—we kind of do a [east-west] stretch.


How does Operation Turkey prepare so many meals?

Lizzy: The day before [Thanksgiving], a lot of the food is cooked. All the turkeys are smoked, and all the Austin locations do a “Turkey Tailgate” at Third Base in [Northwest] Austin. They do a big tailgating party and smoke all the turkeys and cook some of the food there.

What’s in the meal?

Lizzy
: Smoked turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, yams, cranberry sauce and pie. ... We also can provide side dishes only [for vegetarians].

How can someone volunteer?

Brandon
: Just show up [at H-E-B Center]. The volunteers start lining up at about 8 a.m. ... [Lizzy] normally handles the inside, and I handle the traffic and craziness outside, and we ask who wants to help us cook, who wants to oversee kids decorating to-go boxes or who wants to help me start roping off lines. As the volunteers come in, we just give them a job.

How are the meals distributed?

Lizzy
: We have set locations that we take [online] meal requests out for, such as, 'Here’s an address. They want three meals.' And then some of the meals are, 'Go find people, go on the streets' ... or, 'If you know someone who needs a meal, take it to them.'

Brandon: The three Austin locations are a little more need-based. In Cedar Park, we don’t have that as much, so we go out to [senior] homes and anyone who may be working on that day, from first responders to Walmart workers, and hand out meals.

Who is eligible for a free meal?

Lizzy
: We don’t screen. Anyone who needs help, we’re willing to help.

How did you two get involved with Operation Turkey?

Lizzy
: We were looking for some service to do. We have three kids at home. We wanted something we could do with them. There’s not a lot of stuff that you can do on Thanksgiving that involves kids. Operation Turkey said, 'You can volunteer however you want: You can drive; you can come do food; the kids [can] come in and do turkey hand-prints on the plates.'

Brandon: Kids get to help. All the to-go boxes are decorated by kids.

What if someone can’t volunteer on Thanksgiving but wants to help?

Lizzy
: Thursday may be harder to volunteer for some, but the Turkey Tailgate starts at 6 a.m. and goes to 11 p.m. [Wednesday at Third Base in Northwest Austin]. It’s just a fun crowd. ... There they also do donations for clothes and sanitation kits. Volunteers can come and help put those together too. ... Online, they can make a monetary donation.