Anaheim restaurateur’s nonprofit to serve annual free holiday dinner for those in need.

More than 15,000 people are expected to gather for a free dinner on Thanksgiving Day in front of the Honda Center – a tradition started nearly 30 years ago in the parking lot of Frank Garcia’s restaurant. Donations of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pies will be served to homeless and people in need, along with those who might not have anyone to spend the holiday with, said Garcia, 69, of Anaheim.

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Yaretzi Hernandez, 2, gets a bite of turkey at the Honda Center on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. The annual meal, which started as as tradition nearly 30 years ago, draws thousands every year.

“This is a place for everyone who’s hungry or needs companionship,” Garcia said. “A lot of people don’t understand the meaning of Thanksgiving and just jump from Halloween to Christmas. This is the day we thank God for having enough to eat and sharing what we can with our neighbors.” The 27th annual We Give Thanks dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Honda Center. Garcia first served Thanksgiving meals to 3,000 people who gathered at his La Casa Garcia Restaurant on Chapman Avenue. Over time, Garcia was able to collect food and monetary donations by starting the nonprofit We Give Thanks and moved the feast seven years ago to the Honda Center. More than 18,000 people ate for free last year – the largest turnout yet, Garcia said. About 1,500 volunteers will prepare the food. Those who buy a voucher for an 11-pound turkey from Smart & Final and then present it to the Honda Center’s box office through Tuesday will receive two free tickets to an upcoming Anaheim Ducks hockey game. Smart & Final will deliver the frozen turkeys to We Give Thanks.