Pandemic curtails free Thanksgiving dinners this year

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By Alysha Conner

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a setback for many organizations that usually participate in charitable holiday festivities this year.

Rather it be due to funding issues or health-related concerns regarding pubic gatherings, many charitable organizations have scaled back or changed their Thanksgiving traditions of caring for the needy and homeless this year.

However, in the spirit of giving amid the pandemic, the city of Inglewood and some local organizations are still providing local families with food for the holiday..

Among those is St. Margaret’s Center, an Inglewood-based Catholic Charities community resource center that provides emergency and supportive services to individuals and families in need.

St. Margaret’s will not be having a Thanksgiving giveaway this year but is distributing free food the day before the holiday to needy families.

“We’ve never had a specific Thanksgiving giveaway, but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we’re always fortunate enough to get turkey donations from different people,” said Yesica Villalobos, program coordinator at St. Margaret’s. “So, we give them out with our regular food distribution.”

The team has remained diligent about cultivating the spirit of giving through the pandemic by hosting a weekly food distribution.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, St. Margaret’s Center has hosted drive-through food distributions every Wednesday.

The initiative is available for residents who live in and around the airport. Villalobos said.

“We try to keep our food distributions well-rounded for families,” she added.

“We have a kit from the L.A. Regional Food Bank, which includes food like beans, rice and canned goods. We also get a lot of donations from local food markets like Food 4 Less, Vons, Ralphs, and Trader Joe’s. So, we have produce, meat, bread and frozen foods.”

Resources are limited and are only available on an appointment-only basis.

Residents must call St. Margaret’s Center on Mondays and Tuesdays to make an appointment for the food distributions on Wednesdays.

Pick-up times for the items range from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.

St. Margaret’s Center has managed to provide free food to an average of 200 families per week throughout the pandemic.

For more information, call (310) 672-2208.

The city of Inglewood will teaming up with rapper Snoop Dogg for its annual free turkey giveaway presented by Pepsi.

On Nov. 23, residents will be able to receive a free turkey at the new SoFi Stadium between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The massive turkey giveaway usually brings out a long line of people.

This year’s event will be a drive-through event with no walk-ups allowed due to the ongoing pandemic.

Participants are required to register no later than two days before the event.

Upon registration, attendees will be given a specific time to pick up their turkey and directions regarding how to access the SoFi Stadium lot.

There will be a limit of one turkey per household.

Additional contributions for the giveaway have been provided by the L.A. Rams, L.A. Chargers, L.A. Clippers, Centinela Hospital Medical Center, the Marvin Group, True Family Enterprises and Don Lee Farms.

To register, visit https://tinyurl.com/COIThanksgiving.

Another Inglewood-based organiztion, Royal Love, will be preparing 100 lunches and hygiene kits for people living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles for Thanksgiving.

Royal Love is an Inglewood-based organization founded in 2015 that is dedicated to supporting young and adult women of color living with lupus.

Jasmine Dominique, the founder of Royal Love and a lupus survivor, had initially partnered with Inglewood City Councilman Alex Padilla for a drive-up giveaway and health screening event at Rogers Park on Nov. 21.

Their goal was to pass out free groceries, school materials, COVID-19 testing, and HIV testing to more than 100 families in need.

Unfortunately, due to an increase in the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate, the event was canceled for liability reasons.

“I was sad when they called and told me we have to cancel the event because I hoped COVID would be going in the right direction,” Dominique said.

“I enjoy giving back to our community and putting a smile on people’s faces. We’re going through such a hard time right now, and just having an opportunity to uplift someone is important to me. So, I still wanted to find a way to give back.”

Dominique and her team have pivoted by focusing their efforts on serving the Skid Row community for the holiday season.

Instead of hosting a Thanksgiving drive-through giveaway, Royal Love will pass out hand-packed hygiene kits and sack lunches on Nov. 21.

They will provide brown-bag lunches of sandwiches, water, chips and snacks.

The hygiene kits will be packed with name brand essentials like hand sanitizer, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“Skid Row and homelessness is something that is hindering our city right now,” Dominique said. “They are still on the streets, and we are in the middle of a pandemic. There’s not a lot of funding going towards the initiative. So, I felt like if anyone needs help, it would be everyone on Skid Row.”

Royal Love plans to revisit the idea of a giveaway with the city of Inglewood in 2021.

To donate or learn more about Royal Love, visit www.royallove.org.

Other Skid Row organizations also are preparing for Thanksgiving.

The Union Rescue Mission is allowing people to donate money on its website for Thanksgiving. The donation immediately provides safe shelter, food and hope, and the second chance someone needs to begin a new life, according to the website. Visit www.urm.org for more information.

The Midnight Mission will hold its regular Thanksgiving meal Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 601 S. San Pedro St. The Midnight Mission also is partnering with Erewhon to help feed the L.A. community with a purchase of a “Give Thanks Bag.” There are limited quantities available online only, for delivery or pick-up Nov. 20 to 22.

For more information, visit the Midnight Mission’s Facebook Page.

On the westside, the Westside Thanksgiving organization, which normally hosts a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless, is accepting donations to purchase gift cards and blankets to distribute to needy people this Thanksgiving. People are able to donate online. For more information, visit www.westsidethanksgiving.org.

Wave intern Taylor Goodson also contributed to this story.

Alysha Conner is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers Inglewood. She can be reached at aconner@soiwrite.org.