The homeless on Skid Row were treated to a special Thanksgiving meal courtesy of the Los Angeles Mission, Wells Fargo Bank and Chef Michael Voltaggio, chef/owner of ink. and ink.sack, on Wednesday. Thousands were served at the midday event, which featured recipes created by Chef Voltaggio.
“This is the biggest meal of my life… literally,” said Voltaggio. “I’m nervous and all I want is to do a good job and make people smile with food.”
Kirk and Anne Douglas, long time Mission benefactors, were the hosts for the event where they helped serve the meal. Earlier this year Mr. Douglas honored his wife with a $10-million donation to the Mission over the next 20 years. The Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission is named for Mrs. Douglas.
“We should give thanks every day,” Kirk and Anne Douglas said in a statement. “But we look forward to Thanksgiving with our friends at the Los Angeles Mission and try to help those in need.”
The Mission was started as a soup kitchen for depression era men in 1936. Those who came to the Mission then would be very surprised at the quality of the food being served this Thanksgiving. The Mission still serves meals each day, and emergency shelter, but the primary work of the Mission in 2012 is helping men and women restore their lives and get back on their feet. Thousands have graduated from the program and gone on to life off of the streets. Many alumni were on hand Wednesday to volunteer.
“We’ll serve more than half a million nutritious meals this year, none more important than the Thanksgiving meal,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. “That’s why we are so pleased that Chef Voltaggio has worked closely with our kitchen staff to create this very special meal. The message to our guests is ‘you are special, you are valuable and we care about you.’ It gives us a chance to build connections that can grow into relationships. And it is relationships that are necessary to help many chronic homeless make the decision to change their lifestyle and restore their lives.”
Wells Fargo Bank sponsored the event for the 6th year, with a $50,000 donation to the Mission to support its services to the homeless. More than 200 Wells Fargo associates joined other volunteers to serve the meal, clean tables, and serve in countless ways during the event.
“Wells Fargo is privileged to continue its support of the Los Angeles Mission’s efforts to provide food, shelter and services to those in need,” said Bryan Moeller, Wells Fargo’s director of Small Business Banking for L.A. Metro/Orange County. “In these difficult times it is imperative that corporate entities join together to lend a helping hand to build stronger communities through financial support and volunteerism.”
The Mission’s Thanksgiving event is a huge undertaking with more than 500 staff and volunteers working for months to get everything planned and in place. Three thousand pounds of smoked turkey were prepared by the kitchen staff, along with Chef Voltaggio’s recipes for 700 pounds of a Corn and Maple Stuffing (recipe below), 80 gallons of Country-Style Turkey Sausage Gravy (recipe below), 800 pounds of vegetables for the Parmesan Spaghetti Squash Casserole, Ranch Stuffed Baked Potatoes, CranApple Chutney and 400 Pumpkin Pies with Milk and Cereal.
The stuffing was prepared with the assistance of Los Angeles Trade-Tech College Culinary Club students.
The meal was served on a closed portion of 5th Street in downtown Los Angeles, the heart of Skid Row. Tents for serving were set up, along with specially decorated tables and seating. Thousands of guests from the community were seated and served the meal by volunteers from the community, from the entertainment industry as well as local political leaders.
The Los Angeles Christian Health Centers provided foot washing and examinations to nearly 400 of the day’s guests. In addition to getting their feet washed, physicians, nurses and other medical staff did examinations and minor procedures to relieve foot issues. Those with more serious problems were referred to the clinic for appointments. The clinic partners with the Mission for medical services for area residents.
Numerous businesses and groups contributed to the event. U. S. Foods provided some of the elements of the meal, Landsberg Amcor provided the cutlery, plates and napkins, Tarps Plus provided and distributed 2,000 tarps, Icelandic Glacial Water provided bottled water for guests, Kimberly VoDang, Ms. America International 2011, provided and distributed 1,400 blankets, Morongo Band of Mission Indians provided turkeys, and PCL Construction made a financial donation.
And for the 15th year students at Suzanne Middle School provided bags of candy that were distributed to the guests. The students collect left-over candy from Halloween, bag it into individual servings and the Mission hands it out at the event.
“It is the great generosity of the people of the Los Angeles area, companies, individuals and groups that makes this event, and our work possible,” said Smith. “From the dollars donated by Wells Fargo, other companies and thousands of individuals, in kind gifts like food, cutlery, tarps, blankets and thousands of other items, to the talent of people like Michael Voltaggio, we are blessed every day. This ministry’s work would not be possible without the tremendous help we receive. I want to thank everyone who gave and served to make today possible.”