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Restaurant manager leads holiday giving efforts

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Hanan Galassini is pictured at the Daily Record office. (Alison Penn Photo)

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With the holidays just around the corner, Hanan Galassini and her crew are preparing to give back to the community for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Hanan Galassini, second from right, is pictured with her crew of volunteers at last year’s Johnny Gonzales Thanksgiving dinner at the Fraternal Order of the Eagles at 3202 S. Sunset Ave. (Submitted Photo)

For over 20 years, Galassini has worked at Red Lobster and is currently the general manager. She started as a server, and then grill master and prep cook, before accepting the manager’s position.

Galassini has lived in Roswell for 23 years. She is originally from Alexandria, Egypt, where she met her now ex-husband, and they have two children — one is a teacher and the other is in college.

Before working at Red Lobster, Galassini said community involvement was not a part of her life. She said her job inspired her after attending annual work conferences that offered opportunities for employees to volunteer — from packing meals for the troops overseas to delivering school supplies for students.

“… Helping others, I found out, it makes me happy,” Galassini said. “It does. … It’s a small community — I love people. I love my community and I wish I can make everybody happy. But unfortunately I can’t, so I try to do whatever I can to help out. Whatever it is, I never turn anybody away and that’s always with my company’s support. …”

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She explained the restaurant chain values helping its communities by addressing hunger and supporting education. Year-round she also supports fundraising efforts, through donations and carwashes, for local schools and other organizations. She said the restaurant has also helped veterans and police officers through the “Cops and Lobsters” event.

About 10 years ago, Galassini recalled that Johnny Gonzales, a minister who was well-known for his community-centered projects, visited the restaurant and asked Galassini if they could cook a few turkeys for his annual Thanksgiving dinner. She agreed and has been helping ever since.

Her crew has the option of signing up to volunteer with the Thanksgiving dinner and they usually meet at the restaurant on that morning and work with the Gonzales family through the afternoon.

“It gives us joy,” Galassini said about volunteering with her crew for the Thanksgiving dinner. “Because, I can’t even imagine myself enjoying my Thanksgiving dinner with my family before I roll off the bed, put my hat on and run to help through Thanksgiving dinner for the community. And then when I come back, I’m happy — now, I want to eat.”

Thanksgiving is Galassini’s favorite holiday because her son and daughter come home and bring their friends, who she said are extended family.

Nov. 25 marks the second anniversary of Johnny Gonzales’ passing after fighting cancer. There was no community Thanksgiving dinner that year, but Mary Gonzales and her grandsons Nathaniel and Josiah Paredes, as well as the rest of their family, hosted one last year.

This year’s dinner is slated to take place on Nov. 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of the Eagles at 3201 S. Sunset Ave. For more information, Mary Gonzales can be reached at 624-7579.

As a new project, Galassini has been helping Sunset Elementary School with its Thanksgiving project to give dinners to 10 of its families.

For the last few years, she and her crew have adopted families for Christmas — where they cook them a Christmas dinner and provide presents to a family in need. This is something she plans on continuing.

“… Nobody should be alone, or upset, or not having (anything) around the holidays,” Galassini said. “I don’t think it’s right and I think if people got together and actually paid attention to others less fortunate — everybody will have great holidays,” Galassini said.

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.