Published : Friday, November 23, 2018 | 5:57 AM
Perhaps less visible and less well known, a seven-year-old charitable effort in Old Pasadena has built its own whirlwind of giving and which yesterday oversaw 1,200 people in need get Thanksgiving meals and heartwarming doses of joy.
Pasadena’s Thanksgiving Share a Meal program, a community-wide sharing initiative founded in 2012 by Pasadena Sandwich Company co-owner Meghan Fink and her siblings with Pasadena firefighter Steven Lawhorn, was able to feed around 1,200 needy people on Thanksgiving Day in what was its 7th annual Thanksgiving event.
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek the Share a Meal program is a true example of “personal level, family level, small-business level philanthropy in Pasadena.”
“They’ve been doing it for seven or eight years and they make it an effort to be not just a sort of a meal line, but to create a whole family environment,” Tornek said. “I think really it’s just a heartwarming example of Pasadena residents reaching out to bring some joy to their neighbors. I’m very proud to be associated with a City that has this kind of good heart.”
Firefighter Lawhorn was a friend of Stephen Fink, Meghan’s father and founder of Pasadena Sandwich Company. Stephen passed away in 2010 but not before starting a tradition of feeding community members and families in need every Thanksgiving.
After Stephen Fink died, Lawhorn said he went back to Fink’s children and told them about their father’s project.
“I came back to the kids of the owner and proposed, ‘well, your dad used to do this, feed homeless people and take care of the community, and he’s leaving that legacy, so what are you guys going to do about it?’” Lawhorn recalls.
“It kind shook the tree a little bit and we formed a committee for a collaborative effort between Pasadena Sandwich Company, Pasadena Unified School District Fit Office, Pasadena Fire Department, Remainders Creative Reuse and Sydney Paige, Inc. We came up with this program, and it’s now we’re working on our eighth annual program.”
Lawhorn said the meals are cooked from food and goods donated by over 150 corporate and individual sponsors, with volunteers cooking and serving during the event, and some delivering to home-bound beneficiaries.
“It’s just a great day, a great time for everybody that’s here. And we appreciate everything that everyone has done for us to accomplish this day,” Lawhorn said.
Meghan Fink said they prepared meals for about 1,200 people Thursday at the family’s restaurant at 259 Sierra Madre Villa Avenue in East Pasadena. Her brother Jon Fink helps cook and manages the kitchen to make sure it is a safe place for everyone.
“We are feeding about 600 here at the restaurant today and 600 of them will be fed with full Thanksgiving meals that have already been delivered to their homes,” Meghan said. “Every family goes home with a gift bag that has donated food items and gift certificates to restaurants and local grocery stores and things like that, and then necessity items. So every family goes home with one of those blessing bags. And today, we are here to make sure that every single family knows that they’re important, that they’re cared for, and that this community’s got them.”
At the Pasadena Unified School District, its Families in Transition office helps the project by identifying those families that are invited to the Thanksgiving Share a Meal event, Meghan Fink said.
Also part of the Share a Meal team, the other Fink siblings, Kaytee and Nicole, help in their own capacities to continue their father’s legacy of sharing with the community.
Share a Meal this year also featured arts and crafts for the families, face painting, and tattoos and family portraits. A company called Sensible Life gave free chair massages, while other organizations donated sweatshirts and jackets for the beneficiaries to take home.
“All of these companies have donated items that go to this, along with so many others,” said Meghan Fink. “We couldn’t do it without everyone in this community, and it’s just such a privilege to be here and be able to do something like this for families that really could use just a little hoping love today.”
Courtney Brockmeyer, Founder and CEO of Sydney Page, Inc., is a Share a Meal team member. Her company runs a buy-one give-one program, where for every backpack sold, another is filled with school supplies and donated to a child in need. The backpacks are given away during the Share a Meal event.
Other members of the team include Diane Lawhorn, Share a Meal Co-Founder Steven’s wife, who supervises the Kindergarten Yard at El Oro Way Elementary; Families in Transition’s community advocates Socorro Rocha and Martha Jimenez; Sydney Paige Inc.’s Marketing Director Ann Wohlstetter; Mylene Tam from the City’s IT Department; and Robin Cox, Founder and Executive Director of Remainders Creative Reuse in Pasadena, who also teaches at Options for Youth Independent Study and Academic Recovery program and the Armory for the Arts teen program at Artworks Pasadena.
The Pasadena Sandwich Company is located at #102, 259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave. in East Pasadena. For more information about this program call (626) 578-1616.