A host of stars and famous faces turned out in Los Angeles on Wednesday to give the homeless a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.
California unemployment hit 12.5 percent in October, the US Department of Agriculture says more people are “food insecure” than ever before and more homeless than ever are eating meals at the Los Angeles Mission.
At the annual Thanksgiving event at the Los Angeles Mission on Wednesday, Nov. 25, food insecurity was apparent as thousands came for a festive holiday meal with all the trimmings. Each year for the past 17 years, the Mission has served Thanksgiving dinner for people who could use a meal. This year more people than ever before are in need of this free dinner.
Meals were served by Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who along with his wife Anne, hosted the event for the fifth year in a row. They were joined by hundreds of volunteers from the entertainment industry, government, local businesses, and community members.
Kirk and Anne Douglas are the founders of the Anne Douglas Center at the Los Angeles Mission. The Anne Douglas Center provides a place of respite for women who want to learn the skills necessary to a successful transition from life on the street.
“My wife has been trying to help the women that have been forced onto the streets, and she is determined to give them a better life through the Anne Douglas Center where they have programs that improve and rebuild their lives,” said actor Kirk Douglas. “We gladly come to serve men and women at Thanksgiving time to give them a good meal and strengthen their desire for a brighter future.”
“We’ve served 580-thousand meals in the last 12 months, an increase of nearly 10 percent over the previous year,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. Everyone knows the Los Angeles Mission has celebrities come down and serve meals for the holidays, but we are more than just meals. The Mission works daily to save the lives and then restore the dignity of hundreds of homeless and poor men, women and children."
The Wednesday event was the culmination of thousands of hours of volunteer and staff preparation. Food was prepared in advance, and then early Wednesday the kitchen went into get-it-all-ready frenzy. More than a ton of turkey, 750 pounds of garlic mashed potatoes, 90 gallons of country gravy, 800 pounds of mixed vegetables, 400 pounds of cranberry relish, 3,500 dinner rolls and 440 pumpkin pies were prepared and delivered to the hungry guests.
Celebrities who turned out included Kate Linder, Corbin Bleu (High School Musical), Andrea Bowen (Desperate Housewives), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), Nora Zehetner (Greys Anatomy), Donal Logue (Patriot), Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga – Eclipse), Naya Rivera (Glee), Carolyn Hennesy (Cougartown), Carmine Giovinazzo (CSI-NY), Jeremy London (Rain from Stars), Erin Cummings (Dollhouse), Julia Jones (The Twilight Saga – Eclipse), Zuleikha Robinson (Lost), Tania Gunadi (Aaron Stone), Olesya Rulin (High School Musical), Taylor Spreitler (Days of Our Lives), Katherine Boecher (The Spy Next Door), Lucas Behnken (Everwood), Debby Ryan (The Suite Life on Deck), Lauren Storm (I Love You Beth Cooper), Kenyon Glover (The Chicago 8), Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Congress Members Maxine Waters and David Dreier, Police Chief Charlie Beck, Sheriff Lee Baca, and others.
At 6am, Fifth Street from Wall Street to San Pedro was closed to vehicular traffic, tents were set up, chairs and tables prepared, and the entire scene was decorated for the festivities.
The foot washing tent is a big draw for the Mission’s homeless guests. Often the homeless have foot problems that go undetected. Physicians, nurses and volunteers from the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (formerly the Los Angeles Mission Community Clinic) provided this special treat. Clinic officials offer examinations and evaluations, and even do minor procedures that make guests more comfortable.
California State University Long Beach students and faculty members from the department of Communication Disorders at provided speech and Language screenings for children and adults at Wednesday’s event.
Donations from a variety of businesses and organizations made the event possible. The Morongo Tribe of Mission Indians donated turkey, Bonerts Slice of Pie and Jessie Lord Pie Company the dessert, water came from the High Performance H2O Company and the Gideons brought bibles. There was candy for everyone, donated by students at the Suzanne Middle School in Walnut. The students collected Halloween candy, and bagged it up for distribution. 5,000 bags totaling nearly 1,000 pounds of candy were donated.
For more than70 years, the Los Angeles Mission has served the people of Skid Row, providing emergency services such as shelter, food, clothing, as well as professional medical and dental services. In addition, the Los Angeles Mission also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs including education, job training/placement, transitional housing and counseling. For additional information about the Los Angeles Mission go to www.losangelesmission.org.