Foundation brings holiday cheer to many

November 23, 2007
Whittier Daily News
By Linda Fields Gold
Staff Writer

It is very apropos to run information on this organization today, Thanksgiving.

For 30 years, Union Station Foundation has brought a hearty meal and holiday cheer to all who attend, not only the homeless, but also low income families and seniors who are alone.

This event is called “The Biggest Potluck in the Nation.” Supporters bring donated turkeys, hams, side dishes and desserts to Central Park, at the corner of Del Mar Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue, in Pasadena. Hundreds of volunteers are on hand to set up and decorate the park, accept the drive-up food donations and serve the meals.

The Union Station Foundation was formed in 1973 by a group of volunteers from All Saints Episcopal Church to help serve Pasadena’s then-blighted downtown district. After a patron died in 1983 from exposure, Union Station, joined by six other Pasadena congregations, put together a shelter for the area’s homeless.

In 1989, enough capital was raised to build a 6,500-square-foot facility on South Raymond Avenue. By the 1990s, Union Station had become the San Gabriel Valley’s most comprehensive private agency for the homeless.

In addition to food and shelter, clients get support to achieve lasting self-sufficiency and stability (Le. “job training.”) In the 1990s, the number of homeless women and their children spiked dramatically. In response, Rachel’s Center was opened and operated until 2003 when the Family Center opened.

Union Station provides three meals a day, seven days a week to total 144,000 hot meals served a year. Eighty-six shelter beds are available each night.

Case managers meet with clients weekly to help them plan for productive futures. There is screening for health and hygiene and advice and treatment available.

If you are interested in volunteering, there are a number of choices. Some people are interested in short-term, event volunteering. For instance, about a thousand are expected to volunteer today to contribute food and serve Thanksgiving dinner. (If you are free from 1 to 3:30 p.m., your services would be greatly appreciated to help clean up at today’s holiday dinner.)

Christmas Dinner-in-the-Park has the same need for volunteers: setting up, serving and cleaning up – plus, of course, donating food. Volunteers are also needed Dec. 24 and 26. Donated toys are welcome.

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