Bringing Thanksgiving to Venice — The

Bringing Thanksgiving to Venice — The

Updated: 2 months, 2 days, 22 hours, 12 minutes, 38 seconds ago

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a season for gratitude, love and time with family. However, this is not the reality for everyone.

Approximately 69,000 people experience homelessness in the Los Angeles County and according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's 2022 Homeless Count, this number has increased by 4.1% from 2020.

For the past 10 years, local non-profit Lost Angels Org has been giving back to the community and feeding people without housing in Venice through the help of volunteers. For the last nine years, their Thanksgiving event was held by the basketball courts on the Venice boardwalk, but this year it is situated in a blocked off street between Hampton Drive and Main Street from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.

“We're so grateful to be able to have people with the same mindset that want to help our local community and not ignore them especially on the holidays," founder Tina Wright said. “The day before yesterday I gave out 400 flyers and that's unbelievable in like a five block radius.”

Over 500 volunteers from all ages and backgrounds spent their Thanksgiving morning bringing in store-bought and home-cooked meals. With selections from desserts, pies and thanksgiving entrees like green beans, turkey, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, attendees were allowed to choose whatever they wanted and pile up their takeaway boxes.

Other stations offered basic necessities like clean socks, hygiene products, toothbrushes, preloved clothes and in collaboration with another non-profit called Hava Sole, attendees got donated new shoes from major brand names.

“That’s the thing about this event, it's not like any other event in Los Angeles. Everything is hands on by the volunteers," Wright said. "All I get are the permits and the bare minimum like the plates and utensils. It's a collaboration of all of us.”

Volunteer Natalie Sitek found out about the event through her job and decided to spend her Thanksgiving volunteering.

“I wasn't able to make it home for Thanksgiving this year so I thought that I would use my time for the better to try and help. Help others who don’t have their family or a place to go,” Sitek said

Behind one of the stations distributing clean bottled waters, 10-year-old Ally Leang was there volunteering with her parents and grandmother Kathil Adkins.

“I really want to give to all the homeless people, especially with all the people who don’t have homes. Maybe they just took a bad turn and I feel good about giving them this stuff.” Leang said.

Volunteers and attendees lined the entire street and each person who came seeking a warm meal was assigned a volunteer who guided them around the different stations and helped them with carrying their food.

Hundreds of people from all backgrounds attended the event and lined up for the food. While some had mixed opinions about Thanksgiving, everyone expressed their gratitude for the event.

“I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving as I’m an Indian, but I am giving thanks for what you guys are doing,” Vernell Gable said. He explained that he had walked by and stumbled upon the event.

62-year-old Steven Sheffield had not eaten since the day before and was standing in line with his dog Princess.

“They got people helping, you know, I mean, look, you got all this stuff that they're gonna give me and he’s holding it for me. I'll never forget this,” Sheffield said, referencing a volunteer who was carrying his food. “I was here last year and it was nice, but I think this year, it's even better because you got more people helping.”

Hugging Princess close, Sheffield teared up talking about his wife, who died four months ago. He said that she would have been with him in line.

“I appreciate everybody out here helping us. I'm glad we in California. I'm glad we in Los Angeles," he said. "And with everything that's going on in the world right now, man, we are lucky we are so blessed. There is no other place like it and I love United States.”

David Hernandez, another attendee, said that he is appreciative of the Californians who provide for those in need.

“Especially this time I really appreciate getting a good meal, even water. Water is just so sacred in this world. So when they give out water it's really a blessing,” he said.

Hernandez, who is homeless, began tearing up and revealed that the pandemic took away a lot of important things in his life. Despite his circumstances, Hernandez maintains a hopeful perspective about the world.

“We're all here together. No matter if you're in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, or any part of the world. We're all here together. You find people scraping bottom, you find people rich. I know the rich close their hearts cause everybody thinks 'if I find a friend they could steal from you'—but it's not something like this,” Hernandez said.

“Everybody has to just be kind, find kindness and love in this world. If everybody had that, I think everybody would be a lot better off.”