The Los Angeles Mission began its 75th year of service to the homeless of Skid Row with one of the largest street events in its history. Thousands of homeless men, women and children crowded onto closed downtown streets for the Good Friday Event. They left with new shoes and Easter baskets, their feet were washed by volunteers, and their meal served by civic leaders and well-known entertainment industry figures.

Among the stars who took part in the event were Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Hilary Duff (The Story of Bonnie and Clyde), Haylie Duff (Napolean Dynamite), Melissa Gilbert, Leeza Gibbons, Stephanie Pratt (the Hills), Taylor Spreitler (Melissa and Joey), Gilles Marini (Brothers and Sisters), Aldis Hodge (Leverage), Donal Logue (Terriers), Joey King (Ramona and Beezus), William Mapother (Lost), Angie Everhart (Take Me Home Tonight), Garcelle Beauvais (Eyes), Jayde Nicole (Holly’s World), Parris Mosteller (Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer), Tom Schanley, Roopashree Jeevaji and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“Many of the nearly 600,000 meals we served last year were to people who came to us because of the recession’s impact on their lives,” said Herbert L. Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission. "The impact of losing a job and sometimes a home is devastating. Our guests are seeking more than a free meal or a hand out, they want to restore their lives. The Mission is working every day to give them the hand up.

“We have been the doorway of Hope to the community for many decades. Our 75th anniversary theme is ‘Doorways of Hope,’ signifying that the Mission is the entryway for many to a recovered live.”

The Los Angeles Mission has a proud history of helping. It began in the depths of the depression in 1936 as a Skid Row soup kitchen and Christian outreach to homeless men. Today it offers more than meals to the thousands who come for healing and hope. The Mission provides long-term rehabilitation, education, job training and more to those who need assistance.

etnies, the sport shoe company, donated several thousand pairs of shoes which were distributed to the homeless at Friday’s event.

“etnies congratulates the Los Angeles Mission on 75 years of helping get the homeless of the street and back on their feet,” said Pierre-Andre Senizergues, former world champion pro skateboarder and owner of etnies. “We’re celebrating our 25 year anniversary this year too and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to serve the homeless together with hundreds of volunteers today. Our hope is that these new shoes become a symbol for those who receive them – it just takes one step forward to make a change.”

The menu for the special meal served was based on the most popular dishes served at the Mission. Kitchen crew and volunteers began the preparations days in advance, and the kitchen was working early Friday morning cooking, stirring and getting everything ready. A ton and a half ham was sliced and a glaze prepared, more than 700 pounds of cheddar, mozzarella and ricotta cheese were mixed with macaroni and baked, 506 pounds of asparagus was steamed and 45 crates of spring salad mixed with vinaigrette dressing. There were hundreds of Kentucky Pecan Pies sliced for dessert. All served piping hot by more than 400 celebrities and other volunteers who gave their time to make sure everyone was served.

Earlier in the day breakfast sandwiches of egg, sausage and cheese on a bagel or English muffin were served to nearly 500 people who lined up before dawn for the event. Volunteers including City Councilwoman Jan Perry talked with the early arrivers and distributed the breakfast fare.

“The donors of Los Angeles continue to support the Mission – even with the slow return of the economy to normal,” said Smith. “We are still able to serve the community, even though many of our supporters have had to reduce their giving. We greatly appreciate the financial support, as well as the donation of goods. Our volunteer support is superb, we couldn’t keep the doors open without the thousands of hours of volunteer time donated every year.”

Each person who came to the foot washing tent received a brief examination and massage of their feet in addition to the washing. Doctors, staff and other volunteers from the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers treated minor aggravations, and each received a new pair of socks. The foot washing is part of the Christian Church tradition at Easter time, commemorating Jesus’ act of washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, the night before he was crucified. Several hundred lined up for this unique

Fifth Street between San Pedro and Wall was closed to vehicular traffic starting at about 6 AM, and tents, tables and chairs were set up to serve the thousands who came as guests or to volunteer. More than 800 Easter Baskets were prepared by Mission volunteers and distributed to the children who attended. Each basket had candy and toys donated by JAKKS Cares, the California-based toy company. Staff volunteers from etnies made sure each adult received the right sized shoe. The company donated additional children’s sizes that will be distributed through the regular clothing bank at the Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission.

For more than 70 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.

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