Marking its 50th anniversary, Union Station Homeless Services’ “Dinner in the Park,” serving holiday meals to those less fortunate on Thanksgiving Day, will be different this year.
Due to the COVID-19 regulations prohibiting large gatherings, this year, instead of one the traditional community meal in the park, Union Station will be serving Thanksgiving meals in three ways to clients:
1.) Distributing “All the Fixings” Thanksgiving meal supply boxes a week before the holiday, Nov. 18, for clients to cook at home.
2.) Distributing prepared Thanksgiving meals the day before the holiday, Nov. 25, for reheating at home.
3.) Hosting a private dinner on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, for the residents at the Union Station Adult Center and Family Center.
“It’s definitely not what we envisioned, but we’re still excited that we’re going to be able to provide folks with a Thanksgiving meal,” said Amanda Green, senior director of operations at Union Station.
“It is different this year. Folks will have the opportunity to pick up all the fixings and a frozen turkey so that they can make their own meals at home if they have access to a kitchen, and a desire to cook,” Green said.
“We do have folks that are newly housed and would really love the opportunity to make their own meal at home. So that’s really a great opportunity for folks that again have access to a kitchen and a desire to cook,” she said.
According to Green, food can be picked up at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, outside of the Union Station Adult Center, 412 S. Raymond Ave.
On Nov. 25, “we’re following the exact same format. There’s a no-contact pickup for drive-up or walk-up and folks can pick up prepared meals at that time,” she said.
“What we aren’t able to do is we can’t do onsite meals. In the past, it’s been a completely communal experience with tons of tables and chairs,” Green said. “This time, we are going to be providing the meals so that folks can take it with them.”
The event began when a group of volunteers from All Saints Church in Pasadena organized the first dinner and came together to form the earliest incarnation of Union Station Homeless Services. Since then, the dinner has been held every year at Christmas and Thanksgiving in Central Park as an expression of compassion and care for those who otherwise might not be able to enjoy such holiday fare.
In a typical year, the Pasadena Convention Center and Centerplate prepare 250 turkeys for the annual event. The turkeys, prepared and served by dozens of volunteers, feed more than 1,000 people attending the dinner in Central Park.
According to the Union Station website, there are still a variety of volunteer opportunities, including food sorting, food preparation, cooking, packaging, and serving.
“We have been incredibly fortunate to receive really large in-kind donations from community members, collecting boxes of stuffing and mashed potatoes and cans of cranberry sauce and corn,” Green said.
“We’ve partnered with Centerplate at the Pasadena Convention Center who is helping us cook all of our 250 turkeys and we have some key volunteers who are helping our staff in the kitchen.”
For more information, visit unionstation.org or call (626) 240-4550.