Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass set the tone for Thanksgiving around Southern California, offering a Thanksgiving message that “is one of hope, it’s one of determination and it’s one of inspiration.”
“Two weeks ago, the people of this city sent a resounding message that we must come together to face the top crises Los Angeles is facing —homelessness, public safety and the affordability of this city,” Bass said. “Though these challenges are great, I know that we will be able to accomplish big things together.”
Bass was among myriad volunteers — some high-profile but many others working in anonymity — who rolled out on to distribute groceries, hot meals and other necessities to people in need around Los Angeles County.
The need seemed particularly deep this year, with the region gripped by increasing waves of people experiencing homelessness, alarming inflation and rising prices amid a sluggish economy and California’s enduring affordable-housing crisis.
On Thanksgiving Eve, Bass joined elected officials, entertainers and social media, business and reality TV figures to help Skid Row’s Los Angeles Mission serve 3,000 pounds of turkey, 800 pounds of green beans, 700 pounds of potatoes and 600 pies. L.A. County Sheriff-elect Robert Luna, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Miss California USA Kelley Johnson donned red L.A. Mission aprons and served up hot food to a long line of grateful people.
On Thanksgiving Day, the nearby Midnight Mission served brunch to nearly 2,500 homeless and near-homeless individuals and families, according to Georgia Berkovich, its director of public affairs.
“There are people in our community who have a place to live, work, pay their bills, but don’t have enough money for food or special holiday meals,” Berkovich said.
More than 3,500 pounds of turkey and 500 pounds of stuffing were served, topped with 50 gallons of gravy, along with 3,500 pounds of ham with glaze, 1,000 pounds of garlic mashed potatoes, 750 pounds of seasonal vegetables, 250 pounds of cranberry sauce, 300 pounds of dinner rolls and 300 pounds of holiday dessert, Berkovich said.
Actors Mr. T and Amanda Peet were among the more than 200 volunteers preparing and serving food.
“Of the many services The Midnight Mission provides to our unique community, one of the most important is the sense of family we offer to those who often feel lost and forgotten during the holidays and other days of national celebration,” Berkovich said.
“Events like this also provide us with an opportunity to do some progressive engagement, which is to say it helps us to get to know our community members and build trust and create hope. When people feel hope they are more likely to ask for help. And, if they ask for help, we have an array of services we can provide to them.
“And, if we can’t help them here, we can refer to them to a place that can better serve them.”
The Midnight Mission serves three meals a day, every day, serving between 500 to 1,000 people per meal, equaling approximately 1 million meals per year, Berkovich said.
The figure “has been staying pretty consistent” over the years, “but it is hard to compare because there are more services being provided for people experiencing homelessness and the number of homeless people is increasing each year,” Berkovich said.
The Midnight Mission was founded in 1914. It provides immediate subsistence — food, shelter and clothing — to any man, woman, or child who comes through its doors, Berkovich said. It also has 150 beds for crisis and bridge housing for men and women and operates a 100-bed Comprehensive Healthy Living Program with an emphasis on sobriety, using the 12-step philosophy.
“At The Midnight Mission, people do not have to believe in something to get help. We think people need to get help to believe in something,” Berkovich said. “The Midnight Mission gives people experiencing homelessness the tools they need for a new beginning. Restoration of self-respect, self-support, and self-confidence begins with cleanliness, rest and a full stomach.”
Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in downtown Los Angeles planned a Thanksgiving lunch on the parish courtyard to thank the parish community and to feed homeless people living in nearby streets.
The lunch followed a Thanksgiving Mass where an immigrant family from Guatemala will share their testimony and thank God for the welcoming parish community they found in Los Angeles and the United States.
“For Thanksgiving we have prepared a Eucharistic celebration to share the bread and wine, to share our faith with our parish community,” the Rev. Arturo Corral, pastor of La Placita Church, said. “It is important to us because we view it as a gesture of thanks to our servers who help us throughout the year in an unselfish way.
“We want them to enjoy that moment with their families and to send them a message of abundance for the blessings they receive and share throughout the year. We will also welcome the homeless people in the parish surrounding areas, some of whom frequent the parish.”
In Pasadena, Union Station Homeless Services breathed a sigh of relief after distributing more than 2,400 Thanksgiving meals on Wednesday. A few weeks ago, organizers of the relief effort were concerned they would not have enough turkeys to stock its Thanksgiving week events.
But on Wednesday, after donors came through with loads of frozen turkeys in recent days, the organization and its volunteers distributed ready-made boxed meals with all the trimmings, as well as hot meals for those just needing a place to sit and be nourished.
Wednesday’s volunteers at the center included city Mayor Victor Gordo and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, and his family.
Meanwhile, on the coast, the nonprofit organization Lost Angels hosted a “Thanksgiving in Venice” event to feed homeless people.
And, for the 42nd year, seatings were scheduled at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Laugh Factory’s annual free Thanksgiving Dinner.
“If you know anyone in need of a warm meal and a hug,” Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada told the public, “send them our way.”
SCNG staffers Ryan Carter, Jill Stewart and City News Service contributed to this report.
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