Lives destroyed by drugs, alcohol and poor decisions are resurrected every day at the Los Angeles Mission. Men, women and families are restored to personal dignity through the programs the Mission offers. Each story of change has a start, and often that start is as simple as a good meal or an act of service a person receives when they come to the Mission for help.
That help came in the form of an Easter holiday celebration on Good Friday at the Los Angeles Mission. Gourmet meals, baskets of candy, toys and gifts for the children, foot washing and new shoes for the adults were presented in a loving, family atmosphere.
Thousands attended the event. “We have been inundated at our holiday meals,” said Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission. “At Christmas we served nearly 5,000 meals and gave toys to more than 1,800 children. It is clear to any observer that the bad economy and high unemployment are having an impact on the poorest of the poor in our community. It’s tragic to see increasing numbers of people on the streets of Skid Row as recently reported. But we work every day to help find appropriate solutions for each individual.”
Among the celebrity volunteers at the event were Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Christa B. Allen (Revenge), Zach Callison (Sofia the First), Noelle Freeman (Miss California), Yani Gellman (Pretty Little Liars), Edwin Hodge (Red Dawn), Savannah Jayde (Big Time Rush), Kate Linder (The Young and the Restless), Amara Miller (The Descendants), DeVaughn Nixon (Prom), Shaunie O’Neal (Basketball Wives), Julianna Rose (Khumba), Joe Salling (One Warm Night), Boo Boo Stewart (Twilight), Misi Stomber (actress), Isabella Rae Thomas (Brothers and Sisters), Denyse Tontz (Big Time Rush), Billy Unger (Lab Rats) and Yasmeen Yamak (One Warm Night).
People lined up before dawn for the Good Friday event. Volunteers also started early as Fifth Street was closed to traffic and the extensive set-up began before dawn.
Staff and volunteers from etnies(SM) made sure that the 2,000 pairs of shoes the sport shoe company brought to distribute were organized by size for quick distribution. etnies and owner Pierre-Andre Senizergues have been a part of this event for 14 years now and have given out more than 34,000 pairs of shoes.
“I believe that a life is defined not by what you get, but by what you give — that is why we do what we do,” said etnies owner Senizergues. “etnies believes in what the Los Angeles Mission is providing the homeless in Skid Row and we love coming alongside them every year to provide comfort to the soles of the homeless.”
Easter baskets were packed by volunteers during several weeks of effort in March and early April. More than 1,000 individually wrapped baskets with candy and toys were prepared. The toys were donated by, JAKKS Pacific, a leading local toy company which also donates thousands of toys annually for the Mission’s Christmas event.
“JAKKS Pacific is pleased to partner with the Los Angeles Mission to spread the spirit of the Easter season to hundreds of deserving children and families,” said Anne-Marie Feliciano, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Philanthropy, JAKKS Pacific, Inc. “We are proud to support the Los Angeles Mission’s annual Easter event with a donation of toys that we hope will bring joy and laughter to the children in our community who need it the most.”
Each person who came to the 60’ X 20’ foot washing tent received a brief examination and massage of their feet in addition to a thorough and careful washing. Doctors, staff and other volunteers from the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers treated minor foot issues, and each person received a new pair of socks. The foot washing is part of a Christian 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 to have their feet washed. Foot washing has both spiritual and practical applications.
Hygiene kits of items such as toothbrushes, combs and other necessities were prepared distributed as well.
“Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ following his death on the cross,” said Smith. “Resurrection is often an appropriate description of what happens to men and women who have lost their families and their self-respect on the streets of Skid Row, and then rebuilt and restored their lives in the 13-month program at the Los Angeles Mission and the Anne Douglas Center for Women.”
Among the 400 volunteers serving on Friday were recognizable members of the entertainment and political communities. Volunteers served the meal, washed the feet of the homeless, distributed Easter baskets, handed out shoes, and cleaned up.
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.
The kitchen crew of the Mission, assisted by volunteers, began the preparations days in advance. But Good Friday morning was a time for finalizing the dishes to be served during the event. There was 3,500 pounds of apricot honey glazed ham sliced. A tasty orange, ginger and cranberry relish was prepared to go on the side of the ham. 600 pounds of macaroni was cooked, and mixed with three cheeses, and then topped with Panko breading for the Mission’s famous and popular three-cheese macaroni. 600 pounds of corn was cooked with special seasoning. The meal was served with dinner rolls and for dessert, pecan or pumpkin pie.
“Despite the tough economy, Los Angeles Mission donors have continued to support this work,” said Smith. “We greatly appreciate both financial support, as well as those who give clothing, food and other items. Our volunteer support is superb, we couldn’t keep the doors open without the thousands of hours of volunteer time donated every year.”
Utensils and napkins were donated by Landsberg Amcor, and wrapped up by dozens of volunteers in the weeks leading up to Friday’s event. Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities made a donation to support the work of the Mission.