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Peril-ized: Pasadena’s Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for Those in Need Hit Hard by Unprecedented Frozen Turkey Shortage

Union Station Homeless Services has collected just 7 of the 450 frozen turkeys it needs

Published on Thursday, November 10, 2022 | 5:51 am

A homeless man is served a hot Thanksgiving Day meal by Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek during Union Station Homeless Services’ 2019 Dinner in the Park, which brought warmth and comfort to hundreds under miserably rainy conditions. [Photo by James Macpherson/Pasadena Now]
A Pasadena tradition is in dire straits.

Union Station Homeless Services’ annual Thanksgiving Day dinner for those in need — 4,000 Thanksgiving meals complete with turkey and dressing, beverages and pumpkin pie dessert  —  has been hit by an unprecedented shortage of frozen turkey donation, the nonprofit said Wednesday.

“I have never seen the need so dire.  We only have 7 of the 450 turkeys we need,” said David Sensente, Sr. Manager of In-kind Donations, a 20-year employee of Union Station Homeless Services.  “Many long-time donors are not committing to supplying turkeys this year. We need the community to be generous and help us offer a holiday meal to those who need it the most.”  

Union Station has hosted the “Dinner in the Park” Thanksgiving program every year since 1970. The celebrated event feeds the homeless, low income families and those with no place else to go on the holiday and is followed up by a similar Christmas event.

It’s always been made possible through the support of donors and sponsors, and people who volunteer to underwrite specific items on the Dinner in the Park menu.

The event used to be held in Pasadena’s Central Park, where Union Station also hosted an annual Christmas Dinner in the Park.

In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions limited the event to small group dinners, but the meal distribution continued as it does this year.

On Monday, Nov. 21, Union Station will open up the Adult Center, at 412 S. Raymond Ave., so those who have access to a kitchen and want to cook their own Thanksgiving meal can come and pick up meal supply boxes, filled with all the ingredients you will need: a frozen turkey, canned goods, stuffing, potatoes mix, and more! This will be a no-contact pick-up — either walk-up or drive-up to collect your food items. No RSVP is necessary. Meal boxes are available while supplies last.

On Wednesday, Nov. 23, for those who want to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal but do not have access to a kitchen or do not wish to cook, Union Station will have portioned and prepared Thanksgiving dinners available at the Adult Center. This will also be a no-contact pick-up–either walk-up or drive-up to collect your meals between 9:20 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

And on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Union Station will host small, private sit-down dinners for the 550 residents living at their interim housing locations including the Adult Center, Family Center, Centennial Place, Huntington Villas, Casa Luna, the Eagle Rock Tiny Village, and the M Motel in El Monte.

To continue these programs, Union Station needs up to 450 turkeys to fill up over 4,000 meals during Thanksgiving week, said Sensente.

The frozen turkeys will be inside the “All the Fixin’s” meal supply boxes, inside packed Thanksgiving meals for reheating, or cooked for the private sit-down dinners on Thanksgiving Day at Union Station Homeless Services facilities.

Frozen turkeys can be dropped off at the Union Station Homeless Services Adult Center, located at 412 S. Raymond Ave. in Pasadena, any day from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A complete list of needs for Dinner in the Park can be found at

The organization also opens up a variety of volunteer opportunities to make Dinner in the Park possible; work includes food sorting, preparation, cooking, packaging, and serving. You can sign up via Only volunteers who have submitted proof of vaccination against COVID-19 will be able to sign up for Dinner in the Park shifts. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old to volunteer with a chaperone, and at least 16 years old to volunteer without one.

Union Station Homeless Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is committed to providing permanent solutions to end homelessness and rebuild lives. Headquartered in Pasadena, Union Station has been in existence for almost 50 years.

For more information, visit

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