Volunteers Give Back on Thanksgiving

The inviting aroma of freshly baked turkey wafted through the air on a sunny Thanksgiving afternoon, luring in hungry people to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Vista.

Volunteers helped pull together the parish’s 19th annual Thanksgiving event, preparing 75 turkeys, nearly 1,000 pounds of produce and around 250 pies and cakes, said organizer Austin O’Malley.

Preparation began at about 4 a.m. for the big feast, which served about 560 people last year in the North County area, in addition, about 400 plates of food were carried out. “It’s beautiful,” said Oceanside resident Mickey Lee, 45, who currently lives on disability. “On a scale of one to 10, I’d say the food is about 15.” The event featured sit-down service, hand-decorated placemats, and a small army of about 1,000 volunteers to cook food, serve food, and clean up. “A lot of people are hurting right now,” said NaydaBates, 32, as she vied for a tiny space in the hot kitchen to keep scooping mashed potatoes. “I think it’s important to give back.” In Escondido, Interfaith Community Services also hosted a Thanksgiving feast for the less fortunate. The center houses homeless veterans and provides emergency food supplies to the needy, including its annual two-day Thanksgiving feast, which it has held in Escondido for the past eight years on the day before Thanksgiving and on the holiday itself. Given the current economic conditions, an event like this is especially crucial, said Jerry Morgan, Interfaith’s director of basic needs.

Morgan said the nonprofit served about 33,000 people this year, nearly a 90 percent jump from two years ago. John Hoard, 51, said he had just run out of unemployment insurance, and couldn’t find a job since he was laid off in 2007. “This really helps me out a lot, trying to get by withfood,” Hoard said. “I’m hungry.” On Thursday about 60 volunteers at Interfaith coordinated to serve about 500 pounds of turkey and 200 pounds of ham to the 150 people who attended, not counting some 350 people who showed up the day before.The charity also gave out 600 donated turkeys in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Veteran volunteer Grace Amato said she had worked the Thanksgiving shift for about a third of her life. The Chaparral Elementary fourth-grader was in charge of cutting pumpkin pie and drawing holiday foods on placemats. “We’re helping people who don’t have homes and don’t have good food like we do,” Grace, 9, said with a grin.

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