The economy shows no appreciable improvement for the people of Skid Row – and the Los Angeles Mission has seen continued high levels of need over the past few months. But Wednesday was an opportunity for the residents of the area to gather and be thankful for what they do have.

Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, along with his wife Anne, hosted the event for the sixth year in a row. They were joined by hundreds of volunteers from the entertainment industry, government, local businesses, and community members – including Kate Linder, John Schneider, Blair Underwood and many more. Many of the volunteers were from Wells Fargo Bank, who sponsored the event with a $40,000 donation.

Each year for the past 18 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.

“We’re on track to serve nearly 600-thousand meals this year, an increase over last year,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. “The Mission works daily to restore the lives and the dignity of hundreds of homeless and poor men, women and children. We are seeing some different kinds of people needing help. More families are seeking assistance like food boxes. Entering our 75th year of service, our goal continues to be to serve the ever changing needs of our guests – and helping them back on their feet.”

“Every Thanksgiving you can find my wife, Anne and me at the Anne Douglas Center at the Los Angeles Mission,” said Kirk Douglas. “We are happy to work with all the volunteers and dedicated staff serving those in need with a good meal. We all believe that caring is sharing every day of the year.”

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.

One of the more exciting moments of the day was when a Wells Fargo Bank historic stagecoach with a full team of horses drove down the streets of Skid Row to deliver donations collected by volunteers from the company. Many staff members joined in serving the meal, as well as underwriting the cost of the event. Mission President Smith thanked Wells Fargo executives for the continuous and generous support.

“Wells Fargo is privileged to be part of today’s Thanksgiving event at the Los Angeles Mission,” said John Sotoodeh, Wells Fargo L.A. Metro Community Bank regional president. “We hope to encourage other corporate leaders to join together with organizations like the Los Angeles Mission in providing food and services to the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

The event was the culmination of thousands of hours of volunteer and staff preparation. Early Wednesday the kitchen and facilities went into get-it-all-ready frenzy. For the kitchen it was getting more than a ton of turkey, 700 pounds of garlic mashed potatoes, 250 gallons of giblet gravy, 800 pounds of mixed vegetables, 300 pounds of cranberry relish, 3,500 dinner rolls and 400 pies prepared and delivered hot and tasty to the hungry guests.

In addition, the early morning saw breakfast being served to overnight guests in the cafeteria at the Mission, but volunteers, including City Council member Jan Perry and her staff, served breakfast sandwiches and hot cocoa to those who lined up in the cold-pre-dawn darkness for the event later in the day.

For the facilities workers, it was set up starting at six a.m. Fifth Street from Wall Street to San Pedro was closed to vehicular traffic, tents set up, chairs and tables prepared, and the entire scene was decorated for the festivities. From balloon arches to floral centerpieces and tablecloths, the event is prepared to demonstrate the respect and love the Mission staff and volunteers have for the guests.

The foot washing tent draws hundreds of the Mission’s guests. Foot problems are common among the homeless, and often 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.

Hygiene kits with soap, toothbrushes and other items were prepared and distributed by the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club. Children’s hygiene kits were provided and distributed by the Global Children’s fund.

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, Bonnert’s House of Pies donated dessert, Ken H. Landsberg Company donated cutlery and napkins.

Bags of candy for everyone were donated by students at the Suzanne Middle School in Walnut. The students collected leftover Halloween candy, and bagged it up for distribution. 5,000 bags totaling over 1,000 pounds of candy made it into the hands of young and older guests.

“Obviously this is a broad effort by many in the community to make a difference in the lives of the homeless on Skid Row,” Smith said. “We are very grateful for the work so many have done, as well as financial donations. If you want to help go to our website – www.losangelesmission.org – and make a donation or fill out a volunteer form.”

For 75 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.

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