The homeless on Skid Row were treated to a special Thanksgiving meal courtesy of the Los Angeles Mission, sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, and prepared by a group of LA’s top chefs (led by Chef Michael Voltaggio, chef/owner of ink.,) and Chris Cormier’s Mission’s kitchen staff.

At the midday event, thousands enjoyed a unique dining experience of newly created gourmet recipes served up by celebrities and local political leaders.

Among the celebrities who attended were Neil Patrick Harris, Jo Frost, Kate Linder, Kevin Nealon, Bella Thorne, Andrea Bowen and many more.

The Los Angeles Mission welcomed their Skid Row neighbors to a celebration of Thanksgiving with friends and supporters who have a heart for helping people in need.

“We’ll serve more than half a million nutritious meals this year, none more important than the Thanksgiving meal,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. "That’s why we are so pleased that Chef Voltaggio has worked closely with his handpicked team of top chefs to create this unique meal. The Mission’s own kitchen staff has worked around the clock to implement this very special meal. The message to our guests is ‘you are special, you are valuable and we care about you.’

“It is more than a meal,’’ says Smith. “This feast provides us with the opportunity to grow everyday connections into relationships. These relationships are vitally necessary to help many of the homeless go ahead and decide to join our life-changing program to rehabilitate and to restore their lives.”

“The creative process for me was to figure out how to cook a hot and delicious meal for over 3500 guests,” said Chef Voltaggio. “I enjoyed cooking with all of these incredible chefs, and with the amazing Mission staff. We were excited to put together a hearty, nutritious meal from turkey through pumpkin pie and everything in between. It’s truly a blessing to share this part of ourselves with so many people.”

The Mission was started as a soup kitchen for depression era men in 1936 - 77 years ago. The men who came to the Mission back then would be very surprised at the gourmet quality of the food being served this Thanksgiving. The Mission still serves three separate meals each and every day, and provides emergency shelter, but the primary work of the Mission in 2013 is helping men and women restore their lives and get back on their feet.

Thousands have graduated from the program and have gone on to live productive lives off the streets. Mission program alumni always come back to volunteer. This year many alumni were among the volunteers on hand to help others.

The Mission is pleased to welcome back Wells Fargo Bank as the generous corporate sponsor of this event for the seventh year. Wells Fargo’s $50,000 donation to the Mission helps to support year round services to the homeless beyond the meal.

“On behalf of Wells Fargo and the more than 200 team member volunteers who are helping give back to the community, we are privileged to once again be a part of today’s Thanksgiving event at the Los Angeles Mission,” said John Sotoodeh, Wells Fargo regional president of the L.A./Orange County Community Bank. " We hope to encourage other corporate leaders to join together with organizations like the Los Angeles Mission in providing food, shelter and services to the most vulnerable members of our communities."

Many of the Wells Fargo executives and volunteers arrived via the company’s iconic stagecoaches to make their delivery to the Mission. The Wells Fargo stagecoach, pulled by a team of horses, drove to the front of the Mission to unload donations of toys and goodies for the upcoming Christmas event at the Mission.

Each year, the LA Mission’s Thanksgiving event is a huge undertaking with more than 500 staff and volunteers working for months to get everything planned, set up and ready to serve. Chef Voltaggio has been working for weeks with six of LA’s best chefs to create a top chef version of the ultimate comfort food for the Skid Row community.

Those talented chefs include: Suzanne Goin, Josiah Citrin, Steve Samson, Ray Garcia, Josef Centeno, and Duff Goldman.

This means brining and roasting more than a ton and a half of turkey breast. The menu includes: 700 pounds of a chestnut, sage and mushroom stuffing, 80 gallons of country-style turkey sausage gravy, hundreds of pounds of sweet potatoes seasoned with bacon and spinach, thousands of pounds of chile sesame orange glazed carrots, half a ton of mashed potatoes with crème fraiche and garlic confit, 3500 servings of cranberry citrus zest, 4000 dinner rolls (donated by King Hawaiian) and 600 pumpkin and apple pies (donated by Bonert’s Slice of Pie), topped with cinnamon pecan whipped cream.

The meal is served on a closed portion of 5th Street in downtown Los Angeles, the heart of Skid Row. Tents erected on the street shelter specially decorated tables and seating to create a festive atmosphere. Thousands of guests from Skid Row are seated and served the meal by volunteers from the community, by entertainment industry stalwarts, by Hollywood celebrities and by local political leaders, including recently elected LA mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Los Angeles Christian Health Centers provided foot washing and examinations to nearly 400 of the day’s guests. In addition to getting their feet washed, physicians, nurses and other medical staff did examinations and minor procedures to relieve foot issues. Those with more serious problems were referred to the clinic for appointments. The clinic partners with the Mission to provide medical services for area residents. The Los Angeles County Department of Health was also on hand to provide free flu shots.

Key business partners and and benevolent organizations contributed much-needed elements to the event: Landsberg Amcor provided the cutlery, plates and napkins, Tarps Plus provided and distributed 2,000 tarps, Icelandic Glacial Water provided bottled water for guests, Kimberly Vodang, Ms. America International 2011 distributed 1200 blankets, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians provided turkeys and A Foundation for Kids provided crafts for the children who attended.

And for the 16th year, students at Suzanne Middle School provided bags of candy that were distributed to the guests. The students collect candy on Halloween, bag it into individual servings and the Mission hands it out at the event.

“We are able to pull off events like this only because of the great generosity of the people of Los Angeles. The kindness of area companies, individuals and groups who step up to give make the work we do possible,” said Smith. "Because of dollars donated by Wells Fargo, and out of the efforts of many other magnanimous companies and individuals, we are able to give more.

“We are most grateful for in-kind gifts like food, cutlery, tarps, blankets, even flu shots, and thousands of other items. We greatly enjoy the talents brought to our table by people like Michael Voltaggio and his top chefs.

“The kindness of strangers blesses our endeavors every day. This ministry’s work would not be possible without the tremendous help we receive from our city. I want to thank everyone who gave and served to make today possible.”

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