Thanksgiving feast hosted by the LA Mission served thousands of homeless

Jennifer Love Hewitt, second from left, Kim Kardashian, center, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa, second from right, offer food to guests

An annual Thanksgiving feast hosted by the Los Angeles Mission served thousands of local homeless men, women and children

Treated to a meal from the hands of some of L.A.’s most famous chefs. This year’s meal was cooked by a team including celebrity chefs like Michael Voltaggio of Ink including Charm City Cakes’ Duff Goldman, Melissé’s Josiah Citrin and BS Taqueria’s Ray Garcia.

Thanksgiving at the LA Mission.Chef David Thomas, who has served as Food Services Director of the mission for the past 16 years, was the first person in the kitchen Wednesday, overseeing the preparation of sweet potatoes and yams, green beans, and of course, turkey. Endless slices of turkey and sweet potatoes, along with 80 gallons of gravy and 600 pumpkin pies, were all ready to serve at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration. He and his team worked for days to prepare meals for people in need, much like he was a few years ago. Thomas said the annual Thanksgiving event reminds him of his own tough times.

“I think about when I was out there using drugs and alcohol, and I had a place to come to get a hot meal – the Los Angeles Mission. It is so good to be clean and sober for the last 16 years and to be able to give back to somebody who’s not able to feed themselves” said Thomas.

Stars also turn out for the LA Mission Thanksgiving Dinner

Kim Kardashian was among the celebrity volunteers to help out at this year’s Dinner. The reality TV star served gravy on mashed potatoes to guests as they came by her station. Other known Volunteers include; Jennifer Love Hewitt, LA Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa, Neil Patrick Harris, Zachary Levi, Actor Kirk Douglas and his wife Ann Buydens. Celebrity chef Ray Garcia, who was voted Esquire Magazine’s “Chef of the Year” for 2015, said he was happy to share his time and recipes to feed so many people.

More than 500 staff and volunteers were also happy to make the holiday special for those less fortunate.

Thanksgiving at the LA Mission.“I mean, it’s rewarding,” said Asha Culhane, a volunteer. “You know that you’re out here improving someone’s life, and you’re making a difference – no better feeling, I don’t think.”

Meanwhile, those in need said they were grateful for the warm Thanksgiving meal they otherwise would not have had.

“I feel like I’m thankful. I’m glad to be here,” said one homeless man. “I don’t have nowhere else to go.”

In addition to the feast, which is sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank , attendees can get their feet washed and get new socks, blankets and free tarps to survive the colder winter months.

Aside from the mission’s holiday traditions, the organization has been helping in the skid row community for the past 75 years by providing emergency services like shelter, food, clothing and medical care. If you are interested in helping here are some tips on volunteering whether it’s Thanksgiving or any other day of the year:

  • Do your homework. If you’re interested in volunteering, it helps to do research to learn more about the homeless people you will be helping before you go. If you’re volunteering with a group, read up on the needs of its clients. Go that extra mile to make sure you’re not wasting your time, energy or doing the wrong thing.
  • Follow the golden rule. It should go without saying, but here it is: treat the residents of Skid Row like humans. Remember to people who have their belongings and tents set up, that that is their home; so be mindful and respectful of residents’ personal space. When you’re volunteering, say hello to residents, ask them their names and get to know them—just as you would anyone else.
  • Serving food isn’t the only way to get involved. Anyone can serve food, but if you’ve got a special talent or expertise, consider donating that. They can use the help of chefs, tutors who can help people learn to read, teach ESL classes or offer job counseling.
  • Be smart about what you donate. Don’t just donate your old junk. For instance, buying travel-sized toiletries makes more sense than bulky, full-sized ones. During the winter months, residents need socks, winter coats and other things to stay warm, like mittens, scarves and hats. If you’re having a holiday party, you can encourage guests to bring along donations in lieu of presents. Another idea is to buy $5 cards from Subway or McDonalds

Thanksgiving at the LA Mission.

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