Kicking off the festive Easter weekend, several thousand people came to Skid Row on Good Friday to celebrate the joyful hope of resurrection, spreading the hope for a new life to each and everyone who needs it.

Every year, the Los Angeles Mission stages an elaborate street event featuring: a sit down gourmet meal, uplifting music, Easter baskets, foot washing, free medical care and etnies foot wear.

Some 400 volunteers, including Hollywood celebrities and political leaders, reach out in love and compassion to make Easter a celebration of new life for people who need it the most. Practical help is extended to the people living in the most challenging circumstances imaginable: the homeless on Skid Row.

Among the stars who attended this year were Jaimie Alexander, Jordan Babineaux, Tim Bagley, Aaron Carter, Sandra Currie, Nick Curto, Pete Demers, Jimmy Deshler, Ricky Garcia, Oksana Gregorieva, James Hellmold, Aldis Hodge, Breann Johnson, Octavius Johnson, Emery Kelly, Jon Klaasen, City Councilman Paul Krekorian, Alan J. Levi, Jen Lilly, Lisa Long, Jon Mack, Renee Marino, Eaddy Mays, Allison McAtee, Tony Revolori, Brandon Tyler Russell, Brittany Uomoleale, Antonio Villaraigosa, Jason Wahler, and Maitland Ward.

“Resurrection is a word that takes on a practical dimension at the Mission,” said Los Angeles Mission president Herb Smith. “We offer a fresh chance to start over. The meaning of a new life is something we all think about at Easter. However, individual lives are renewed here every single day. Each aspect of life is regenerated here - through the power of love, fellowship and hard work.”

Nothing says celebration more than a fabulous meal and the Mission serves an elaborate Easter meal as well as offering a wide array of health services and goodies to all comers. This year etnies and the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC) stepped up to be the primary sponsors of this event.

In a springtime setting of giant tents and colorful seasonal flowers, more than 800 Easter baskets are given out to children. Each basket contains the “Jelly Bean Prayer” with candy and toys hand-packed by volunteers. Serenaded with live music, people enjoy more than 3,500 delicious dinners during this celebration of hope.

At the 1400 square foot feet-washing tent, LACHC medical personnel and other volunteers wash the feet of the homeless, perform exams and minor medical procedures and apply healing salve. Hygiene kits and numerous new socks are given away. Easter week foot washing is a Christian tradition. It is an act of humility and service, which memorializes Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the night before he was crucified.

etnies volunteers make sure 2000 pairs of etnies shoes fit just right. The shoes are especially desired on Skid Row because they are designed for skateboarding, and therefore very durable. This is etnies’ 17th year of supplying both shoes and volunteers to the Mission. etnies’ professional skateboarders and surfers joined the company executives to distribute the shoes.

“For us, it’s more than giving out 40,000 pairs of shoes,” says Pierre-Andre Senizergues, owner and CEO of etnies. “It’s been 40,000 times that we’ve been able to connect with a person to let them know that we care and that we hope that they will find a way back on their feet. It’s so important for the homeless to have comfortable and durable shoes to wear each day, but it’s even more important that they know they are part of community that wants them to succeed.”

Many of the men and women come to the Mission event because they have a desperate need to be emotionally, physically and spiritually healed. To meet their practical needs, the LACHC coordinates the foot care efforts while the LA County Public Health Department offers TB screening, flu shots, and HIV testing. Some of the tests take a few days, so follow-up appointments are set up for next week at the Mission.

“We are always looking for a chance to make a real difference in the everyday lives of our patients,” says Dr. Lisa Abdishoo, President and CEO of LACHC. “We know that individuals who live on the street seldom have normal, loving, human contact. This outreach offers us the opportunity to provide relief for painful foot conditions as well as to troubleshoot underlying medical conditions. But most of all, it is our best chance to have meaningful personal interactions with patients outside of the clinic. The happy atmosphere of this event proves to them that we are only here to help. That is why we wouldn’t want to miss being a part of this.”

Mission programs are designed to overcome addictions and restore hope to people who have lost hope. Therefore, Mission chaplains staff the prayer tent both to interact and to pray with people. The Gideons are also there to hand out bibles to everyone who wants the good book. As homage to the land of the Bible, a special photo exhibit features compelling pictures of the Holy Land. Photographer Tom Lackey displays his excellent work at the event every year.

The Mission’s kitchen crew, led by chef Chris Cormier, spends countless hours preparing the Easter feast. The menu includes: 1,800 pounds of ham cooked with a peach ginger glaze, 800 pounds of scalloped potatoes, and 1,500 pounds of fresh green beans almandine. The meal is complemented with dinner rolls, butter, cranberry relish and a special desert of fruit pie cobbler with ice cream.

Numerous businesses and individuals donated various elements for the day’s events. Landsberg Orora supplies the place settings to serve the meals, Bonert’s Slice of Pie provides the pies, and King’s Hawaiian donates the dinner rolls. King’s Hawaiian’s donation also included enough dinner rolls to supply Mission meals for weeks.

“The Los Angeles Mission exemplifies the Aloha Spirit – the core values of hospitality, kindness and generosity – upon which we have built our business.” said Mark Taira, Chief Executive Officer, King’s Hawaiian. “We are pleased to welcome its community into our Ohana (extended family) this Easter by serving King’s Hawaiian rolls at their holiday meals.”

Also supporting the Easter event was Scarpaci/Kelly Productions, which donated a portion of its “crowd funding” proceeds, for a new TV pilot, to the Mission. And Jesse Wintner, a seven-year-old LA boy, decided to raise money for the Mission instead of getting gifts for his birthday. The on-line campaign went viral raising several thousand dollars for the Easter event.

“Jesse’s dedication to the homeless is a real inspiration,” said Smith. “It is humbling to see a child that young come forward to join our donors who support the Mission every year. We greatly appreciate what he did. Just like we appreciate the dedicated regular giving from tens of thousands of others who make our work possible everyday.”

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