What better way to get into the season of giving this Thanksgiving Holiday weekend than to head downtown to Los Angeles and volunteer to serve turkey dinner with all the trimmings to more than 3,000 homeless on Skid Row. It was a rare opportunity today (Wed., Nov., 26, 2014) to enjoy a special gourmet holiday meal on the day before Thanksgiving. The LA Mission annual event is sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank and the Los Angeles Mission on 5th Street in front of the Mission. This epicurean effort comes from a selfless group of LA’s top chefs (led by Chef Michael Voltaggio, chef/owner of ink.) working on site along with the Mission’s own kitchen staff.
At the sit-down midday meal, thousands enjoyed a unique dining experience of newly created recipes served up by celebrities and political leaders. The Los Angeles Mission welcomed its Skid Row neighbors to celebrate Thanksgiving with Mission friends and supporters who have a heart for helping people in need. The volunteers make a real difference by helping to foster a welcoming atmosphere of love and family.
“We serve more than half a million nutritious meals all during the year, none more important than this special Thanksgiving meal,” said Herb Smith, president, Los Angeles Mission. “We are touched that Chef Voltaggio works so tirelessly with his handpicked team of top chefs to create this unique meal. The Mission’s own kitchen staff works around the clock to help implement every aspect of our amazing meal. Every person on our staff throws themselves into making this work. The message to our guests is this: ‘we care for you like family.’”
Politicians and dignitaries helping out today included LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Executive Director Peter Lynn, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to former Republican Congressman David Dreier. Some of the long list of Hollywood celebs included: Actress Donna Feldman, Actress Mirelly Taylor, Miss California Cassandra Kunze, Comedian George L
LA Mission Board Member, Marilyn McCoo (Fifth Dimension) encouraged everyone to volunteer if not on Thanksgiving but anytime is a good time to do it. “Homeless people are you and me,” she said. “We need to start treating them like human beings. You could be homeless, your whole family at no fault of your own,” she explained. McCoo was on hand with her husband and partner, Billy Davis Jr., of which both are still doing concerts across the country. “We are trying to change the lives of people and give them a second chance,” said Davis Jr. “They’re people working, but sleeping in their cars, because they can’t afford a home. One of the biggest blessings you’ll ever have is to come to the LA Mission and serve these people.”
Joining the McCoo and Davis Jr. was Four Seasons Hotel Owner, Beverly Collins, who said McCoo and Davis Jr. have been her inspiration to volunteer ever year at the LA Mission. “I am also here, because we all need to help,” she said. “You’re making a difference in people’s lives when you do.”
For more than 78 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, professional mental health counseling, job training/placement, and transitional housing.
“I the word is getting out about homelessness, the overall numbers are going up slightly, but I think we are making a difference especially with the chronically homeless,” said Smith. “I think the VA is stepping it up and there is public pressure and there is a focus, which opens the door to services we never had before for homeless veterans.”
Celebrities and celebrity chefs packed into the serving areas along with scores of volunteers, many from Wells Fargo Bank. “Celebrities bring attention to media and the media bring attention to the issue of homelessness,” explained Smith. “The biggest message is ‘thank you on Thanksgiving’. “We here to end homelessness, so please be thankful and be willing to give back to the community. “This day represents more than a meal to the Mission,” says Smith. “As we serve this feast, we want this experience to open up closed hearts. We are knocking on the doors of closed hearts today. We want people who are hurting to come in and share this meal with us.” Smith noted that Wells Fargo’s $50,000 donation to the Mission helps to support year round services to the homeless beyond holiday meals. The mission relies on private donations.