Rainfall didn’t dampen the spirits of volunteers – or needy individuals and families – when Union Station Foundation’s annual “Christmas Dinner in the Park” had to be moved indoors. Hundreds of volunteers prepared and served nearly 1,500 meals, and Santa Claus distributed hundreds of gifts to gleeful youngsters.
“The rain had very little real effect,” commented Marvin Gross, Executive Director of Union Station. “Our volunteers adapted quickly with canopies and extra tables set up at our residential facility, and the outcome was the same as it would have been in the park – a great meal, a feeling of community, and a big smile on every face.”
Food donations from businesses and individuals throughout the area arrived as usual, with cars lining up outside Union Station from 9 to 11:30 AM to drop off prepared food, while volunteers began their own cooking and food preparation in the facility’s kitchen starting at 5 AM. “The rain did cut the number of people who were able to join us,” noted Aarin Ulrich, Union Station’s Director of Community and Volunteer Programs. “However, the smaller turnout allowed us to provide ‘leftover meals-to-go’ to help expand the holiday gift to poor and homeless individuals and families in need.”
Approximately 700 Union Station volunteers helped make the special event a success. “However,” Gross emphasized, “it’s this same volunteer base that enables Union Station to operate and provide services throughout the year. Unfortunately, homelessness and poverty doesn’t just exist during the holidays, but on a daily basis – 365 days a year.”
Others contributing to the special holiday dinner were Dolphin Rentals, the City of Pasadena, Ryder Truck Rental, Overture Services, Inc. / Yahoo, Pasadena Civic Center, Athens Services, the Pasadena Jewish Temple, John Ingle, Chrissy Ingle, and Andy and Michelle Krinock.
Founded in 1973, Union Station Foundation is the San Gabriel Valley’s largest private agency serving the poor and homeless, providing more than 130,000 meals and 21,000 nights of shelter for individuals and families every year. The organization’s support services include career development and job placement, community healthcare, case management services, 12-step meetings and legal assistance. More than 70 percent of Union Station’s clients have found stable housing after their stay with the agency. Union Station operates a 36-bed shelter facility for individual men and women at 412 S. Raymond Ave., and a 50-bed shelter for parents with children at 825 E. Orange Grove Blvd., both in Pasadena.
In addition to the annual Christmas Dinner-in-the-Park, Union Station also presents a Dinner-in-the-Park on Thanksgiving. For further information about making donations, volunteering, and other events throughout the year, please call 626.240.4550 or visit www.unionstationhs.org.