Union Station Homeless Services officials in Pasadena said the nonprofit is grappling with unprecedented challenges in meeting the escalating demand for Thanksgiving meals. The organization, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is gearing up for its annual “Dinner in the Park” event on Wednesday, Nov. 22 aiming to serve over 4,000 meals to those in need.
“At 12 noon we are having sit-down,” Brenda Lynch, Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Union Station, said. “So if you are experiencing food insecurity please do come. All are welcome.”
The food service will be held at 412 South Raymond Avenue in Pasadena.
Lynch said Union Station is still in need of volunteers and food items.
Anyone wanting to help can check the Dinner in the Park page at their website, https://unionstationhs.org/dinner-in-the-park-2023/ .
Anne Minskey, the CEO and executive director of Union Station Homeless Services, highlights record-high levels of food insecurity, emphasizing the pressing need for community support.
Despite substantial donations, including frozen turkeys, the organization faces a resource shortfall. The increased need for meals also spans across various demographics including families, seniors, youths, and working adults struggling to make ends meet.
The Pasadena Homeless Count indicates a 9% rise in homelessness in 2023, primarily attributed to economic factors. Union Station said community involvement is essential, with volunteers and contributions from various sponsors playing a critical role in supporting the meal program.
Years back, Union Station started “Dinner in the Park” as a community potluck, where community members would bring food to Central Park and share it with their neighbors.
Eventually, the potluck had to stop due to safety reasons. The event’s focus shifted to making sure that people in need have access to a decent Thanksgiving meal.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 15, Union Station gave out some 1,800 meal supply boxes, filled with all the ingredients needed for Thanksgiving dinners, in a no-contact pick-up event. The boxes had a frozen turkey, canned goods, stuffing, potatoes mix, and other ingredients.
On Nov. 22, they will be giving out portioned and prepared meals for people who don’t have access to a kitchen or do not wish to cook, available for pick-up at the Adult Center until 12 p.m.
On Thanksgiving Day, Union Station is hosting small, private sit-down dinners for the residents at the Adult Center and Family Center. This is especially significant as it marks the first sit-down dinner since the onset of the pandemic.
Union Station Homeless Services is the San Gabriel Valley’s largest, most comprehensive social service agency assisting homeless and very low-income people. Founded in 1973 as Union Station Foundation, the organization was registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and in 2008 changed its name to what it is today.
In 1989, Union Station completed a $1.3 million capital campaign and opened the Adult Center, a 6,500 square-foot 36-bed shelter on South Raymond Ave. When it saw a dramatic increase in the number of women and families seeking services in the late 1990s, Union Station opened Rachel’s Center to address the special needs of homeless families. Rachel’s Center operated until 2003, when the Family Center opened.
Beyond providing just meals and shelter, Union Station Homeless Services has expanded its programs to include a continuum of services that meet the unique needs of vulnerable individuals and families in the San Gabriel Valley. The organization’s approach now has four core pillars of services: Outreach, Interim Housing, Permanent Housing, and Community Integration.