Aurora Central senior volleyball player Ana De Los Santos, right, brings a plate of food to the table of a newly-arrived family at the Trojans’ annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the community Nov. 15 in the school’s cafeteria. For the third year in a row, De Los Santos, coach Barry Lago and the Trojans have donated food and time in a way to give back to those in need in the community around them. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel)

With 12 turkeys and little help from their friends, the Aurora Central volleyball team went about giving back to its community Nov. 15.

The Trojans held their third annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the surrounding community and it turned out be yet another success.

Players bounced through the school cafeteria with plates of foods and drinks to greet, joyfully serving all who walked through the door. (Photo gallery)

“I just really like helping the community and the people that support us on and off the court,” said senior team captain Ana De Los Santos, who has been part of the event for all three years.

The Aurora Central volleyball team served its annual free Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 15, 2018, at Aurora Central High School. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel)

“This is just a way for us to thank them for being so supportive throughout the whole season.”

In large part because of graduation, injury and youth, coach Barry Lago’s team finished 4-18 in 2018 after going 11-12 the previous year, but once the season was over, the Trojans could turn their attention towards the dinner.

Though they started publicizing the meal a little bit later than in years past, the Trojans still got plenty of response.

Judging by the number of plates that were gone near the end of the meal, Lago estimated the team had served more than 130 people (including team members) during a two-hour span in the school’s cafeteria.

A hotline set up just at the beginning of the week had reservations for 75 of those people and there were also some walk-ins as details of the meal were flashed on the large screen outside of Aurora Central.

Lago buys and cooks the turkeys himself and this year he decided to go with 12 after he prepared 14 last season as he wasn’t sure how attendance would be. Fifty pounds of mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing and gravy — which came in at just under $400 total — provided enough for everybody who stopped by to be fed.

“The kitchen staff from the school volunteers their time; we had three ladies back there and all we did was cook the turkeys and hand them to them and they carve them up and do the rest,” Lago said.

Aurora Central senior volleyball player Selena Perez, left, poses for a picture with three volunteers from the school’s kitchen staff that helped served the Trojans’ annual free Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 15, 2018, at Aurora Central High School. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel)

As with just about any annual event, the more times it’s run, the smoother it goes.

Returning Aurora Central volleyball players knew what kind of jobs they needed to do and stepped up to do them. Lago said only one meeting was needed this year — in contrast with biweekly meetings in the first year — as players knew what needed to be done.

Some returned calls from the hotline, some greeted guests at the front doors, some were in charge of decorations and music and others set up coloring and games for kids.

“We didn’t really have that much trouble this year, the girls are starting to get used to it and know what to do,” said De Los Santos, who also noted many of the people at the dinner come every year.”

It wasn’t all work for the Trojans, who held an impromptu game of volleyball in front of the kitchen as they waited for more guests to arrive. Others spent time at the coloring table and helped decorate a large turkey drawn on butcher paper, while others played with kids.

Lago said the program’s vision is to grow the dinner to 300 people in the future.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports