Thanksgiving meals ‘timely blessings’ to hungry | UTSanDiego.


Thanksgiving meals ‘timely blessings’ to hungry
By Elizabeth Aguilera Saturday, November 17, 2012

Downtown San DIego — Thanksgiving came early to several thousand homeless and hungry San Diegans Saturday. Warm burgers fresh off the grill in the East Village and steaming turkey slathered in gravy at the San Diego Rescue Mission greeted mothers with children in tow and single men and women who lined up for the annual events. Described as “timely blessings” and “yummy,” the meals brought community to those who live on the streets, stay in shelters or pay every penny toward rent with little or nothing left for food. “It’s very difficult right now, the crisis affects us all,” said Jolene Gramino, who shares a studio apartment with her brother Cuauhtémoc Gramino, a construction laborer, and his French poodle, Lucky. “Where there is not a dollar in one hand then it does not reach other hands.” The pair attended the 4th annual Embrace the Streets food and clothing giveaway near 16th Street and Island Avenue downtown hosted by Embrace, a nonprofit that mobilizes college students for community projects. Volunteers — mostly from San Diego State University — fed more than 400 people with food donated by the San Diego Food Bank and cooked up by chefs Bob Alvarado and Melvin Johnson, who brought his Slow Cal BBQ food truck to the event. Embrace also gave away about 2,000 pounds of clothing. “People take little things for granted, having a blanket, having something to eat, having someone talk with

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Thanksgiving meals ‘timely blessings’ to hungry |

them. It means a lot,” said Sean Sheppard, founder of Embrace. Chester Hicks, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran wearing a POW-MIA baseball cap, chomped on a burger at Embrace. “This is a good thing, people helping people,” he said. Across downtown in Bankers Hill, the San Diego Rescue Mission hosted it’s 57th annual Congregate Thanksgiving Dinner and served upward of 2,000 meals. Guests sat down in shifts in the dining hall for meals served by volunteers, fresh pumpkin pie and a live band. Newly-elected county Supervisor Dave Roberts bussed tables, country Treasurer Dan McAllister poured water and Mayor-elect Bob Filner greeted guests. “It’s just what you would get at home ... and lots of love,” said Herb Johnson, CEO of the Rescue Mission. “It’s an opportunity for folks to come in off the street and get a meal and be treated like kings and queens for an hour.” Sheila Childs, 31, her four children and her sister-in-law sat together for the meal. The two women have been moving from motel to motel trying not to spend any nights on the street. Childs had to put veterinarian technical school on hold after a series of events drove them to homelessness, including her boyfriend going to jail. “This is a blessing, a lot of people don’t get this,” she said. “It’s good to come together and give thanks. This is Thanksgiving dinner for us.” The dinner was Ken Smith’s second meal of the day, an accomplishment. “Now I can say I had Thanksgiving dinner,“ said Smith, 51. The meals, which cost $1.74 each, will continue throughout the season despite a recent decrease in donations, said Development Director Greg Helton, who offered the following challenge to San Diego. “Give up your regular cup of coffee or soda for one week and contribute to the Mission during the holiday season,” he said. If giving does not move you, Helton promises to refund the money. © Copyright 2012 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.

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11/21/2012 12:34 AM