Pasadena Volunteers Are The Lifeline For Feeding the Homeless this Holiday Season
So many Pasadenans volunteered to help serve the less fortunate at the 46th annual “Dinner in the Park” this Thanksgiving Thursday in Old Pasadena that Union Station Homeless Services’ website crashed.
With that outpouring of giving back, said Union Station’s Director of Volunteer and Community Programs Stephanie Harris, the volunteer count reached maximum capacity with an impressive count of over 600 community volunteers willing to spend their holiday helping others.
“Dinner in the Park” is the Union Station’s city’s longstanding holiday food drive that doesn’t just accept food donations — it provides home-style traditional holiday hot meals for the local homeless population on Thanksgiving in Central Park, and again on Christmas in the Union Station Adult Center.
This year’s event is expected to feed over 2,000 people, which requires substantial volunteer manpower to ensure smooth sailing.
“The event has really come to be a well-oiled machine. It’s a healthy mix of new and returning volunteers who are really the backbone for making this event as successful as its been for the last 46 years,” said Harris. “People are still calling asking to volunteer.”
The army of volunteers have pre assigned roles and shifts that include manning stations in areas of set up, serving in the buffet line, managing food drop off areas and much more.
“It’s the great equalizer. We all want to be somewhere where we feel that someone cares about us and we are apart of bigger community. this is a way to do it. we are all in this together. to me that’s what humanity is all about, and being a good member of our community,” said Union Station CEO John Brauer.
According to Harris, the majority of the food for the event was donated by the community, which totals as much as $10,000 worth of meals for the homeless.
“The fact that people come and donate canned goods and [other] things lto supplement this event is an unimaginable act of generosity,” said Harris.
Pasadena Center Operating Company Executive Chef Arnold Preciado is helping Union Station and volunteers prep and cook 200 turkeys for a gourmet Thanksgiving experience.
“This is another example of the extraordinary community support system that exists in here. The tradition of giving is something that the people in Pasadena integrate into their life,” said Harris.
You can still participate, Harris said, even though the volunteer ranks are full.
Union Station is still accepting food donations of pre-packaged and store-bought items only. Other requested donation items include bottled water, bagged salad, instant mashed potatoes, pot holders and kitchen towels, according to Harris.
Former Union Station CEO Rabbi Marv Gross and Mayor Terry Tornek will be in attendance.
“This event is special because it is a moment for people who are experiencing poverty to be treated like royalty. Even if we can only give back to them for one day, it’s an opportunity for them to feel honored and special and to hopefully they can learn about the resources we offer,” said Harris.
“Dinner in the Park” kicks off on Thanksgiving Day from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Central Park located at 275 South Raymond Ave. Food will be distributed on the corner of Del Mar and Fair Oaks.
Store bought pies are welcome and can be delivered to 412 S. Raymond Ave before the event or may be dropped off at Central Park on Thanksgiving morning (drop off area is on the southern parking strip of Fair Oaks just north of Del Mar Blvd.)
For more information, visit https://unionstationhs.org/event/dip16/