I’m not a fan of organized religion, except when organized religion organizes something as successful as the Westside Thanksgiving. This past Thanksgiving, I volunteered to help feed some 3,000 homeless and needy people at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, in the annual Westside Thanksgiving event put on by a large interfaith consortium led by the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
As the photo above indicates, the Civic Auditorium was bedecked in festive balloons, and long tables with tablecloths. The volunteers were encouraged to take some time to sit down, share a meal and talk with the attendees, and partake in the whole experience. I did so and was both impressed and overwhelmed with all aspects of the event: the number of people served, the huge number of volunteers who showed up to help, the quality and quantity of the food (a large plate of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie at a separate table), and the efficiency of service (when attendees sat down to eat, servers came over within seconds to bring food and drinks). In addition to the food service, attendees were offered free haircuts and medical attention, and were given a bag of clothing and personal items upon leaving. As far as I could tell, this large event was extremely well-organized, and went off without a hitch.
The link above specifies a number of companies and schools which donated or otherwise helped out with Westside Thanksgiving. In addition, many unnamed individuals gave their time, money, food, and even their cooking skills, preparing many of the turkeys in their own ovens beforehand.
Based on this year’s tremendous volunteer turnout, I can’t say that they will need more on-site volunteers next year, but I’m sure they can use donations of cash or other items. Here’s what was requested this year, along with relevant contact information. Presumably, a similar list will be posted at the same site next year.
One way or another, I plan to help out with Westside Thanksgiving again. And if you decide to join in, thanks in advance.
(This post is part of the “Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving” series)