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Those With Nowhere to go Served Compassion at Los Angeles Mission Thanksgiving Feast

For the Homeless on Skid Row

Los Angeles, California – Wednesday, November 21, 2018 – The number of people in California without a place to call home has unfortunately increased.  Everyone who could use a meal was welcomed for a lavish holiday dinner during Los Angeles Mission’s Thanksgiving celebration.  The annual event, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Los Angeles Mission, transformed 5th Street into a festive open-air dining room. 


Thousands of L.A.’s neediest people were invited to sit down for an exceptional dining experience.  Together, Hollywood celebrities and local political leaders served chef-inspired recipes to people who could use a taste of compassion and understanding.

Longtime Mission volunteers helped extend a warm welcome.  These dedicated individuals conveyed a sense of unconditional love and family to those who needed it most. The Mission hosts Skid Row friends and neighbors every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Everyone is encouraged to enjoy a relaxing meal served by volunteers who have a heart for touching the lives of people in need.


“We are here on Skid Row ministering to the homeless every single day of the year.  The Mission serves nearly half a million nutritious meals each year – none more important than our annual Thanksgiving banquet for about 3,500,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission.  “The Mission’s kitchen staff and Chef Michael Voltaggio labored long hours to create every aspect of this amazing feast.  Our staff wholeheartedly threw themselves into making everything work.  The message to our guests is this: ‘we care for you like family.'”

“The real reason we do this?  We want to reclaim lost lives.  We know that the road to changing a life often starts with a meal.  That first taste of compassion can inspire individuals to come and see what else the Mission can do to help them recover and get off the streets.  Today’s meal can open the door to a long-term healing relationship,” said Smith.  “We are trying to open closed minds.  We hope that people who are hurting can taste and see how good their life could possibly be.”

Smith continued, “Relationships that begin today can be the crucial first step towards repairing lives that have been broken.  This is our way of reaching people who may not know about the life rehabilitation work we do here.  Individuals can join the Mission’s long-term residential education and training program to completely revamp and renew their lives.”

The Mission offers services and a residential rehabilitation program for women through Anne Douglas Center.  The center is the brainchild and endowment of Anne Douglas, wife of actor Kirk Douglas.  Kirk Douglas is, by far, the Mission’s most generous benefactor.


Members of Mission programs, both men and women, have the benefit of extensive professional mental health counseling through the L.A. campus of the Chicago School of Psychology and LACHC, with additional supportive funding from the Goldwin Foundation.

The Mission is delighted to welcome back Wells Fargo for its eleventh year of sponsoring this event.  Wells Fargo’s generous $50,000 donation to the Mission supports year-round services to the homeless that go well beyond today’s holiday meal. 


“Wells Fargo is proud to support today’s Thanksgiving meal and the worthy work that the Los Angeles Mission does for the homeless community daily,” said Michael Ormonde, Wells Fargo Los Angeles region bank president. “Our thanks to Herb and the entire team for allowing us to be part of this event.”

Every year, the Los Angeles Mission’s Thanksgiving event is an enormous undertaking. It requires the efforts of more than 500 dedicated staff and volunteers who work for months to get everything planned, set up and ready to go. 


The Mission kitchen staff, led by Chef David Thomas, prepared thousands of pounds of food for this gift of a gourmet meal for the homeless.  This meant preparing more than one ton of turkey breasts.  The menu also included: 2,500 pounds of crushed potatoes with olive oil and herbs, 1,000 pounds of cornbread dressing, 90 gallons of turkey gravy, along with 1,000 of pounds collard greens with ham hocks, 3,500 servings of fresh cranberry sauce, with thousands of dinner rolls (donated by King’s Hawaiian) and 600 made-from-scratch sweet potato pies.

Fifth Street, the heart of Skid Row, is closed and transformed into an outdoor dining room, where tents are set up for food service, foot washing, and giveaways.  Tables are decorated with tablecloths and floral creations (designed by Mission graduate Johnnetta Tripplett) to create a happy harvest atmosphere. 

Every year, well-known entertainment industry stalwarts, Hollywood celebrities and local political leaders join to serve the meals.  They come back year after year to make new friends and add immeasurably to the festivities.  Everyone gives their all to create a feeling of family.

The Los Angeles Christian Health Center provided foot washing and foot health examinations to nearly 400 of the day’s guests.  In addition to having their feet washed, and receiving a new pair of socks, courtesy of Hanes, medical professionals performed minor procedures to relieve foot problems.  Those with more serious health issues were referred to the clinic for no-cost appointments.  The health clinic collaborates with the Mission to provide medical services for area residents that include free flu and Hepatitis A shots administered by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

Key business partners and various benevolent organizations contributed much-needed elements to the event.  Dignity for the Homeless, a group of Korean businessmen, offered both financial and volunteer support, and Kimberly Vodang–Ms. America International 2011—and her group “Warm Heart” handed out 1,200 blankets.  Meanwhile, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians supplied turkeys.  King’s Hawaiian donated the dinner rolls.  “Cooking with Hart”, actor Kevin Hart’s charity, donated hygiene kits this year.

For the 21st year, students at Suzanne Middle School provided bags of candy that were distributed to the guests.  Students collected candy on Halloween, organized it into individual serving bags and Mission volunteers distributed that candy at the event.

“We understand exactly what it takes to pull off an event like this,” said Smith.  “We depend upon the generosity of the people of Los Angeles.  We count on loyal support from area companies, individuals and groups that never fail to step up to fund the work we do.  They make all the difference,” said Smith.  “The need is constantly expanding.  We certainly maximize every contribution provided by Wells Fargo.  We appreciate the loyalty and dedication of the other magnanimous companies and individuals who work with us on this.  Their faithful support enables us to do more.”

“The kindness of strangers blesses what we are able to do every day.  This ministry’s work would not be possible without the tremendous help we receive from our city.  We want to thank everyone who gives to the Mission and serves to make today possible.”

The Mission started as a soup kitchen for Depression-era men 82 years ago in 1936.  The men who frequented the Mission back then would be genuinely surprised by the quality of the gourmet meals being served this Thanksgiving.  The Mission still serves three separate meals every day and provides emergency shelter, but the primary work of the Mission in 2018 is helping individuals restore their lives and get back to the business of life. 

Over the years, thousands have graduated from the program and have gone on to live productive lives off the streets.  Every year, Mission program alumni come back to volunteer. Many are on hand to serve and help others.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,950 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet ( and mobile banking, and has offices in 37 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 262,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2018 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

About the Los Angeles Mission

For more than 80 years, the Los Angeles Mission has served the people of Skid Row, providing emergency services such as shelter, food, clothing, as well as professional medical and dental services.  In addition, the Los Angeles Mission also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs including education, professional mental health counseling, job training/placement, and transitional housing. 

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