The volunteer registration window for Union Station Homeless Services’ Thanksgiving “Dinner in the Park” events in Pasadena opens Wednesday morning as the organization begins recruiting a small army of roughly 300 helpers to brighten the holidays for neighbors in need.
Due to the pandemic, organizers will once again skip the traditional massive community buffet at Central Park in lieu of a series of smaller, safer programs spread over three days, Union Station spokeswoman Dana Bean said.
“This year, the sentiment of the event is the same and we’ll still be serving the same folks in need of a meal, but we do have a revised event to ensure that we can implement with COVID safety,” she said. “It will be broken up into three smaller events where we can still serve our food to secure neighbors and make sure that they get a wonderful holiday meal.”
Volunteers will first prepare boxes of uncooked Thanksgiving meals, including all the fixings, for those with access to kitchens and wish to prepare their meals themselves, organizers said. The boxes will be distributed on Nov. 17.
Fully prepared meals will be served for pick-up on Nov. 24, according to Union Station.
A series of smaller community dinners will be hosted throughout the city on Nov. 25, Thanksgiving Day, Bean said.
In order to keep the five-decade-old tradition alive, about 300 volunteers will be needed for everything from sorting donations to cooking to delivering, she said. Online volunteer registration opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and often fills quickly.
In addition to volunteering, donations of food items and money are also greatly appreciated, Bean said.
“Actually, we need help more than we’ve ever needed help before with this particular event,” she said. “As we are beginning to shop for Thanksgiving, we have seen that food prices have dramatically increased, and some of the items that we’re looking at have even doubled since last year. And so we really are calling on the community to help us make sure that we can provide these holiday meals for our community members.”
Having spent 15 years with Union Station, Bean said the annual Thanksgiving dinner is one of her favorite times of year.
“I love seeing all of our community members come together to really ensure that the folks who live at our different facilities as well as our community members receive a happy holiday meal,” Bean said.
“And we have seen a lot of volunteers and donors discover Union Station through our Thanksgiving Dinner in the Park, and then become engaged throughout the year. So it’s a wonderful way for people to learn about our work and a wonderful way for us to feed all of our community members,” she said.
More information on Union Station Homeless Services Thanksgiving Dinner in the Park, including how to donate, is available online at unionstationhs.org/event/dinner-in-the-park-2021.
Information for those interested in volunteering at the event is available at unionstationhs.org/DIP_faq.