Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving – Vineyard Christian Fellowship/Westside Thanksgiving

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)

Empty LA

melrose I was shocked to see a nearly vacant Melrose shopping district today. Around noon I took my shoes to the Fluevog store to be repaired, expecting to deal with the post-Thanksgiving shopping masses, but parking was easy, the sidewalks were free and the stores I walked by were virtually empty. At first I was happy to not have to deal with the usual Saturday shopping crowd, but as I looked around I began to worry about the economy. On a positive note, most of the restaurants in the area seemed to be busy. Maybe it’s just because a lot of people are out of town for the holiday weekend, but what do you think?

Give at Gobble Gobble Give

800px-Thanksgiving_1918For the eleventh straight year, Gobble Gobble Give will be packaging and delivering meals to those in need in and around The Echo on Thanksgiving Day.  Yeah, The Echo, that snazzy little joint in Echo Park where a bunch of creepy old white guys recently stared just a little too hard at the three tiny Japanese girls known as Shonen Knife.  (Besides that yuck factor, what a great show that was!!).

In a bit of twist to the traditional Thanksgiving slop-and-serve, Gobble Gobble Give takes a lesson from the economies of scale chapter of the Ford playbook: volunteers bring the parts (i.e., food, toiletry kits, and clothes), assemble everything in boxes, conveyer belt style, and deliver the packages to those in need around Echo Park and Downtown.  Last year, volunteers from all stripes delivered these packages to over 1,500 people.  So, if you’re orphaned and in need of friends and valuable bonding time (even if it’s with strangers) (this might be me, so you’re not going to be the only one); if you’re looking for a way for the family to do something together other than text in the same room while the turkey roasts; or if you have no ulterior motive and simply want to donate the time, hit up The Echo at 10am Thanksgiving Day and claim your spot.  As of this posting, Gobble Gobble Give’s Facebook page lists 238 confirmed attendees, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they’re adequately staffed.  You know us Angelenos: we confirm before we commitSign up to deliver, and, whatever you end up doing, happy turkey/non-turkey day everyone!