Despite complications imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations across Southern California are finding a way to give back to the community.
With the pandemic still terrorizing the economy and over a million unemployed people in California, partaking in giving back to the community helps with a sense of purpose and spreads kindness to those who need it most. We Give Thanks and the Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Center are spreading holiday cheer in the form of community service this season.
We Give Thanks
We Give Thanks prides themselves on contributing to the less fortunate in Southern California throughout the year. On Thanksgiving, We Give Thanks typically provides a delicious and special holiday meal, entertainment and a place of gathering. In light of COVID-19, the organization recently delivered 1,500 hot meals to Health Care Facilities in the Orange County area.
Founder Frank Garcia started the annual get together when reflecting on his own fortune. Inspired to help those without a place to be on Thanksgiving, Garcia decided to serve free Thanksgiving meals to families in need at his restaurant, La Casa Garcia from 9 a.m. to noon.
This year, the organization will host a drive-thru event at the Honda Center in Anaheim. They have teamed up with Second Harvest Food Bank, Waste Not OC and the Orange County Food Bank to make a Thanksgiving meal that can be picked up and enjoyed.
Downtown Women’s Center
In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the Downtown Women’s Center is the only organization in Los Angeles with a primary focus on serving and empowering women who are formerly homeless and those who are experiencing homelessness.
DWC focuses on solutions to homelessness through wellness, employment and advocacy. In 2019 alone, it served over 5,000 women, including connecting over 1,000 with health services.
Normally at Thanksgiving, DWC volunteers serve a special meal accompanied by holiday festivities: bingo, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, karaoke and dance parties. The evening ended with the passing out of holiday goodie bags. This year will look just a bit different.
“Our kitchen staff is working to prepare a delicious Thanksgiving menu that they are planning on handing out to all of our residents,” Anita Vukovic said, who is the DWC advocacy and communication coordinator. “We have 119 units of housing as well as women who come to the center to receive meals and services.”
DWC is planning on handing out 320 meals on Thanksgiving. With an absence of volunteers and COVID-19 restrictions, Thanksgiving will be less interactive than it has been in the past. Regardless, Vukovic is still confident in DWC to provide kindness to the community this November.
“Seeing how committed and passionate our community is is really overwhelming to see how our entire community continues to support each other,” Vukovic said. “It’s truly making such an amazing difference both in our work and in the lives of the women that we are serving.”
Ways you can give back
While the holidays ahead may be unrecognizable due to the pandemic, giving back has arguably never been more important. Below are a few of the ways you can make an impact this season.
If you’re near Los Angeles, Influence Change Los Angeles is hosting a Thanksgiving Lunch in Gladys Park. Their Instagram call-out is searching for volunteers who are skilled at cooking and passionate about spreading holiday cheer. If you have perfected your pumpkin loaf, drop it off from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. this Thanksgiving. Also in Los Angeles, Homeless Division is currently holding a winter resources drive through Thanksgiving Day. The grassroots organization is collecting blankets, jackets, water and more off of the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards in Sherman Oaks at 11 a.m.
Food drives are frequent this time of year, but the best way to support is to actually give money instead of donating cans and dried food. More meals can be made out of a dollar and funds combat food waste, ensuring goods don’t expire or that food banks don’t run out of room.