LOS ANGLES (CNS) – Thousands of homeless Los Angeles County residents will enjoy traditional Thanksgiving dinners Thursday, many served by celebrities at gatherings from Skid Row to Compton and Pasadena to the San Fernando Valley.
Approximately 5,000 homeless people and families will be served at the annual Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Dinner West Coast at the El Camino College Compton Center. Major League Baseball donated $10,000 to the foundation. Participants in the MLB Youth Academy will help serve the meals.
“Major League Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities, but perhaps most importantly, we are members of communities that sustain our clubs, facilities and initiatives,” said Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball development.
“The Compton community has been tremendously supportive of our efforts at the MLB Urban Youth Academy to provide local youth with opportunities on and off the field, so we are pleased to give back to those in this area who are in need during this holiday season.”
The dinner is named for a late minister known throughout Indiana for feeding families in need.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will give his traditional “Prayer for the City” at The Midnight Mission, then help serve Thanksgiving meals to 2,500 poor and homeless men, women and children. Blankets and hygiene kits will also be distributed.
Actor Dick Van Dyke will be among more than 250 volunteers serving traditional Thanksgiving dinners at The Midnight Mission to thousands of homeless, near-homeless men, women and children.
The Laugh Factory in Hollywood will conduct its 33rd annual free Thanksgiving Feast for the underprivileged, homeless and others alone. Comedians Tim Allen, Tom Arnold, Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook, Tom Dreesen, Maz Jobrani, Larry Miller, Paul Mooney and Paul Rodriguez will greet and serve guests and perform live shows following each of four meals served from 1-7 p.m.
Temple Beth Hillel will conduct its 12th annual Thanksgiving Day Feed the Hungry Feast in Valley Village, with more than 1,000 expected to be served at what is billed as one the San Fernando Valley’s largest Thanksgiving feasts. The feast is part of the congregation’s commitment to social action, which also includes its founding role in the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry, which feeds 5,000 people per month.
The homeless will also be provided with Thanksgiving dinners at Central Park in Pasadena in what is billed as the biggest potluck in the nation and at the Guadalupe Community Center in Canoga Park.
The first official Thanksgiving was held in the Virginia Colony on Dec. 4, 1619. The traditional meal stems from one held in 1621 by the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, Mass.
The Continental Congress issued the nation’s first official Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1777.
President George Washington issued a national Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, his first year in office. He declared a national thanksgiving holiday for the newly ratified Constitution, so people may thank God for “affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness” and for having “been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, particularly the national one now lately instituted.”
The first four presidents combined to issue six Thanksgiving proclamations. However, the tradition ended in 1815. Abraham Lincoln reinstituted it in 1863 in an attempt to heal the divisions caused by the Civil War. Every president since has made an official Thanksgiving proclamation.
“On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community and country,” President Barack Obama said in his proclamation. “Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.”
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