About 2,100 people gathered in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last Thursday afternoon for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that included the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans and some untraditional additions, such as “makeovers” for the women, haircuts for the men, a petting zoo, pony rides and moonwalks for the children, and new shoes, clothing and blankets for everyone who wanted them.
A photographer was on hand to take photographs of individuals and families, which were processed and distributed to their subjects on the spot, while doctors immunized children, and three bands provided entertainment.
Long tables were set up in the Civic and, when the 2,100 guests were seated, dinner was served by some of the 1,000 volunteers who staged the mega-feast. Many of this year’s volunteers were young students.
This was the 23rd annual Thanksgiving Day dinner for homeless people in this area to be put on by an inter-faith coalition of Westside churches, with a lot of help from businesses and area schools.
It began in 1982 when a small group of members of Santa Monica Vineyard Church began serving homeless people on the Westside Thanksgiving dinner. By 2004 it had become one of the largest Thanksgiving Day events in Southern California.
Last year, over 2,000 meals were served, 200 blankets were distributed, hundreds of children’s immunizations were given, 280 haircuts were given, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA doctors and nurses provided free consultation and two tons of clothing were distributed.
Early reports indicate that Thursday’s event was at least as large. Leftover food was given to the Salvation Army to be distributed to its clients.
This year, participating churches included Vineyard Christian Fellowship Westside; Malibu Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Trinity Baptist Church, Community United Methodist Church of Pacific Palisades, Metro Church, St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church, Oasis Christian Center, First Presbyterian Church, The Acts Church, Venice Free Methodist Church, Resurrection Life Fellowship, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica, Westwood United Methodist Church, St. John Presbyterian Church (LA), Culver City Presbyterian Church (CC) and HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles Youth).
Businesses that donated goods, services and support included Kaufman & Broad; Watt Industries, Albertson’s, Staples, The Carnations Company, Security First, Pioneer French Baking Company, Access Communications, Golden West Meats, Ocean Spray, Arigold Orange and Grapefruit Growers, Arrowhead Water, Starbucks, The Marriott Corporation, Merrill Lynch, The Gap, HIS Productions, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Studios, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Nike Corporation, CAM Distributors, Café Au Lait, Hallmark Incorporated, and WNA Comet.
Also making donations were over 25 Catholic, Episcopalian, public and private schools and preschools in Los Angeles, Venice, Pacific Palisades, Culver City and Brentwood, along with seven schools in Santa Monica — Franklin Elementary School, Santa Monica College, Concord High School, Carlthorp Elementary School, Mt. Olive Preschool, Crossroads School, and St. Anne’s Catholic Elementary School.Planning for this year’s feast began in September and, in the weeks before the event, Volunteers distributed invitations all over the Westside.