Meals for homeless and poor planned for Thanksgiving

- Thanksgiving will be marked in Los Angeles County today by large gatherings on Skid Row and in Pasadena and Canoga Park to feed homeless and poor residents, and distance races that include charitable aspects.

Actors Dick Van Dyke and Ed Begley Jr. are expected to be among more than 300 volunteers serving Thanksgiving brunch at The Midnight Mission to thousands of homeless or nearly homeless men, women and children. Food bags and donated clothing will also be distributed.

"Of the many services The Midnight Mission provides to our unique community, one of the most important is the sense of family we offer to those who often feel lost and forgotten during the holidays and other days of
celebration," said Georgia Berkovich, the mission's director of public affairs.

"Now, more than ever, we need to work together to restore hope and dignity to those in need."

The Fred Jordan Mission on Skid Row will hold its annual Thanksgiving banquet, serving more than one ton of turkey, topped by 80 gallons of gravy, to homeless people and working families who can't afford to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, organizers said.

The meal will also include 585 pounds of green beans, 560 pounds of candied yams, 500 pounds of mashed potatoes, hundreds of pounds of traditional cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, 400 pumpkin pies and 220 gallons of fruit punch.

Guests will also receive a family food gift bag.

About 5,000 Thanksgiving dinners are expected to be served to adults and families experiencing homelessness and poverty, senior citizens and those who are alone or unable to afford a holiday meal at Union Station Homeless Services' Dinner-in-the-Park at Central Park in Pasadena, continuing a tradition that began in 1972.

Volunteer registration for Thanksgiving has closed. Registration to volunteer for the organization's Christmas Dinner-in-the-Park will begin Dec. 1 on its website, unionstationhs.org.

More than 2,000 people will be served turkey dinners at the 28th annual free Community Thanksgiving Day dinner for the area's homeless and low-income families at Guadalupe Community Center in Canoga Park.

The public is invited to the 16th annual Gentle Thanksgiving at The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita, which will feature vegetarian food, a bonfire, Native American drum circle and the opportunity to feed turkeys "that have
been rescued from Thanksgiving," according to organizers.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2015 annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress released last week, the one-night estimate of homelessness found that the Los Angeles Continuum of Care had the nation's second-largest amount of homeless people, 41,174, and second-
largest percentage of unsheltered homeless people, 70.3 percent, among major cities' continuums of care.

The estimate found there were 6,781 more homeless people in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care in 2015 than 2014, a 20 percent increase. A continuum of care is the local planning body responsible for coordinating the full range of homelessness services in a geographic area. The Los Angeles Continuum of Care consists of all of Los Angeles County except for Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach. 

Distance races have also become a growing Thanksgiving tradition.

The inaugural Drumstick Dash on the back lot of CBS Studios in Studio City will consist of a timed competitive 5K race, a timed community 5K run/walk and a Kids Fun Run.

Funds raised through registrations and sponsorships will be used toprovide hot meals, housing, health care and other basic needs to the homeless in the San Fernando Valley.

Organizers hope to make this an annual event.

The Turkey Trot Los Angeles 5K and 10K races will start and end at City Hall. The course will go through Bunker Hill and on Spring Street, passing The Broad contemporary art museum, Grand Park, Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Museum of Contemporary Art.

Some runners will be dressed as turkeys, Pilgrims and pies, according to organizers.

Participants are encouraged to donate time or money to The Midnight Mission.

The third annual 5-kilometer Tofurky Trot will be held outside the Rose Bowl, with prizes going to the top finishers in the men's, women's and kids divisions and for the best-costumed runner. Rescued turkeys from The Gentle Barn will be the guests of honor.

Profits from the race will be donated to The Gentle Barn and the National Museum of Animals and Society.

The sixth annual Burbank Community YMCA Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot will be run on a double-loop course in downtown Burbank, with 5- and 10-kilometer races, a 5-kilometer "fun run/walk" and a "kiddie run" for
children 9 years old and younger.

Proceeds from the race will benefit the Burbank Community YMCA's membership assistance program, which makes its facilities and programs available to the children and families in the city, regardless of ability to
pay.

The first official Thanksgiving was held in the Virginia Colony on Dec. 4, 1619. The traditional meal stems from one held in 1621 by the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The Continental Congress issued the nation's first official Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1777.

President George Washington issued a national Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, his first year in office.

Washington declared a national Thanksgiving holiday for the newly ratified Constitution, so people may thank God for "affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness" and for having "been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, particularly the national one now lately instituted."

The first four presidents combined to issue six Thanksgiving proclamations. However, the tradition ended in 1815. Abraham Lincoln reinstituted it in 1863 in an attempt to heal the divisions caused by the Civil War. Every president since has made an official Thanksgiving proclamation. 

In his Thanksgiving proclamation, President Barack Obama asked the nation to "express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without."

Copyright 2015 FOX 11 Los Angeles : Download our mobile app for breaking news alerts or to watch FOX 11 News | Follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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