On Thanksgiving Day, we prepare and devour a veritable feast, from roasted turkey to thick gravy and delectable pumpkin pie.
Still, when we bow our heads to give thanks to God, we should remember the poverty-stricken, homeless and sick among us who do not share in our abundance. As concerned Catholics, we must keep in mind God’s plan, including caring for orphans, widows and others in need, as told to us in Deuteronomy 27:19: “Happy those concerned for the lowly and poor; when misfortune strikes, the Lord delivers them. The Lord keeps and preserves them, makes them happy in the land, and does not betray them to their enemies.”
Many shelters and schools offer hot meals. Some ministries will provide turkeys and trimmings for Thanksgiving. Mary Lou Walters, chair of the Christ Cathedral Parish Outreach Ministry, says its work began more than 15 years ago when it was first established at St. Callistus Parish.
“The ministry was begun when Father Tuyen Nguyen became pastor,” Walters recalls. “He said we needed outreach to the community and to the homeless. Several of us had been talking about it for years so we were glad.” At least four of the women who began the ministry are still volunteering, she adds.
Volunteers treasure their time in the ministry, Walter says. “One woman, a widow, looks forward to coming because we have fun with our clients and get to know each of them. Youth come from confirmation classes to get their service hours. Just being there is a good, fun time.”
The ministry’s holiday activities complement its daily outreach to the poor and homeless, including an evening meal. “It makes you smile that people are involved in this,” she notes. “We get to be extended family members or friends.”
On Thanksgiving, between 30 and 50 people will come for a traditional meal, Walters explains. “We will have some music and will provide about 60 food baskets to families that include turkeys to cook for dinner. This Thanksgiving we’ll also put out some clothing and gently used athletic shoes. Some of our homeless friends need shoes.”
At Christmas, the ministry will sponsor a Giving Tree where volunteers can take names and collect toys for needy kids. It will provide about 60 baskets for families that will include ham or turkey and a toy for each child. Survival kits, including a pair of socks, toothpaste and toothbrush, soap, can opener, flashlight and poncho will be distributed to the homeless.
On the countywide level, Catholic Charities has fed the hungry, consoled the hurting and cared for the young since 1976. “One family at a time, we do what we can for those in need with what is given to us,” the Catholic Charities website says.
One way the organization provides for the less fortunate is through food donations at the Doris Cantlay Center in Santa Ana, which is open three days a week with special food distribution at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
Each organization invites support from caring individuals and organizations. Donations are accepted online or in person: ccoc.org is the address for Catholic Charities and christcathedralcalifornia.org will reach the Christ Cathedral Parish Outreach Ministry.
Other charitable organizations offering food to the needy include Food Finders Long Beach, the Salvation Army, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Second Harvest Food Bank, The OC Catholic Worker and the Orange County Rescue Mission.