DICKINSON

Twelve weeks ago, it might have been hard for people in Dickinson to imagine something to be thankful for.

At the end of August, torrential rains from Hurricane Harvey flooded the city and displaced thousands of residents. Post-storm recovery is still underway and many people may not be home for the holidays.

But on Saturday, hundreds of people visited the VFW Hall in Dickinson to share in the city’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner and also in a little bit of pre-Harvey normalcy.

The dinner has been held yearly since 1999, said Dickinson police officer Tony Valdez, one of the event’s main organizers.

“It’s a great program; it brings a lot of people together, especially after the storm,” Valdez said. “People are a little displaced, we have to get them back into the norm.”

Saturday’s menu included turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and cake. The VFW planned to serve 600 people, Valdez said. More than 300 plates had been given out in the first hour of the event.

Valdez said the crowd was about equal to past years.

There was one notable person missing.

Nelda Harles, the Dickinson Police Department’s crime victim liaison and a chaplain, died in September. Before her death, Harles had been a key member of the group that organized the dinner and a fixture at the actual event.

Before the dinner began, Harles’ family was presented with a plaque in her honor.

“She loved to have all the people have something to eat,” said Terri Harles, Nelda’s daughter. “The food’s always good and the helpers are amazing.”

Her mother also took mementos from each Thanksgiving dinner — in the form of the brown paper place mats that children drew on during dinner. She kept hundreds of them over the years.

“She loved it over here,” Terri Harles said.

The Dickinson VFW, VFW Auxiliary, the Dickinson Police Department, the Dickinson Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, the Pilots Club of Dickinson and Anchor Club of Dickinson all helped organize the event.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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