If you’re going to serve 3,500 meals to some of Southern California’s neediest residents, you’re going to need some help. Luckily for the Los Angeles Mission, the St. Francis High boys basketball team was up to the challenge.
The entire Golden Knights’ roster got up early last Wednesday morning and headed to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles to help the Mission prepare those meals by getting the turkeys, mashed potatoes and fresh plates of cranberry sauce ready to be served in a holiday feast.
One player, 17-year-old
Giuseppe Gallo, said he thought serving holiday meals to the less fortunate on Skid Row would open his and his teammates’ eyes, because even though greater Pasadena is just up the freeway from this part of downtown Los Angeles, it can also seem worlds apart.
“We live in a bubble, just eight miles away from a different world,” said Gallo, a Pasadena resident. “Giving back to the community is what we need to do. Doing this helps out a lot.”
Gallo added he was fairly certain the team’s work would not go unnoticed by the Mission, as volunteers like the St. Francis student-athletes are invaluable for getting all the work done.
“Today is the busiest day for them,” he said. “They depend on a lot of people coming in and helping them with this big day. [The needy] will be lined up around the block and will be getting this big Thanksgiving meal for themselves and their families. Giving back to the community; there’s nothing better than that.”
The coach of the St. Francis
boys basketball team, Todd Wolfson, said he was very proud
of his players for volunteering to help the Mission; it wasn’t a mandatory event.
“It shows our guys are more than just basketball players and shows more of what they can do off the court,” he said.
Wolfson said he was particularly proud of Gallo for organizing the team’s efforts at the Mission.
“He feels that at Thanksgiving we are so thankful for what we have that we help and give back and learn what it stands for,” Wolfson said of Gallo.
Lisa Stevens of Wells Fargo Bank, which helped make the meals possible with a $50,000 donation, said she agreed that it is good for the team to see what life can be like if you make that short drive down the Arroyo Seco and into downtown.
“It’s great to bring these kids down from Pasadena where they’re just eight miles away and see there’s so much need out here,” said Stevens, a Pacific Midwest Regional Bank senior executive for Wells Fargo. “It’s not what you get, it’s what you give. I think it’s life-changing for some of them to see the world outside of Pasadena and see how much need is out there. For some of these boys, it’s their first time to see something like this.”
Stevens’ colleague at Wells Fargo, Greater Los Angeles Lead Regional President David DiCristofaro, said helping those at the holidays who can’t help themselves is something that spurs him on to come out and volunteer at the Mission.
“We need to do this so we can provide a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner to those who are not as fortunate,” he said. “We really try to make this a really happy holiday for them.”
One man who was eating breakfast said he was pleased so many people were there to help make holiday meals.
“It’s good,” Joshua Dotson said. “I’m getting some good food right now.”
And what would he do without the work of the Mission?
“I’d definitely go hungry,” he said.
Herb Smith, president of the Mission, added that while his organization is inundated with volunteers this time of the year, need goes on all year long.
“We have more than 700 people who are volunteering,” Smith said. “We had to turn people away. People just want to help. This is the biggest day for us in terms of people wanting to volunteer. But there are 364 other days of the year as well.”
Smith also said volunteer assignments include office work, kitchen work, making art projects, and added: “If you have a passion, we could probably put you to work.”
Also, for Pasadena residents wishing to donate, items always in demand are socks, underwear and hygiene products. Those who may be interested in donating to the Los Angeles Mission or volunteering their time may call (213) 629-1227.