Those With Nowhere To Go Taste Compassion at Mission’s Wednesday Thanksgiving Feast

For the Homeless on Skid Row

Los Angeles, California — Wednesday, November 23, 2016 — Those who have nowhere to go welcomed to a lavish holiday dinner with all the trimmings. The annual event, sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank and the Los Angeles Mission, transforms 5th Street into a festive open-air dining room. A group of LA’s top chefs (led by Timothy Hollingsworth, chef/owner of Otium) volunteer their culinary expertise to create a fresh take on the traditional Thanksgiving menu. The Mission’s own culinary team works for weeks to prepare the meals from those recipes.

Thousands of L.A.’s neediest people are invited to sit down and enjoy this exceptional dining experience. Hollywood celebrities and local political leaders join together to serve chef-inspired recipes to people who could use a taste of compassion and understanding.

Longtime Mission volunteers cultivate a welcoming atmosphere. These dedicated individuals convey a sense of unconditional love and family to those who need it most. They help the Mission welcome its Skid Row friends and neighbors every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Everyone is encouraged to enjoy a relaxing meal served by volunteers who have a heart for touching the lives of people in need.

“We are here on Skid Row ministering to the homeless every single day of the year. The Mission serves more than half a million nutritious meals each year — none more important than our annual Thanksgiving banquet for 3,500,” says Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. “We are grateful that Chef Timothy Hollingsworth has volunteered to create unique recipes for this meal. He has worked tirelessly with his handpicked team of top chefs to create and execute this menu. The Mission’s own kitchen staff has labored long hours around the clock to help implement every aspect of this amazing feast. Our staff wholeheartedly throws themselves into making this thing work. The message to our guests is this: ‘we care for you like family.’”
“The real reason we do this? We want to reclaim lost lives. We know that the road to changing a life often starts with a meal. That first taste of compassion can inspire individuals to come and see what else the Mission can do to help them recover and get off the streets. Today’s meal can open the door to a long-term healing relationship,” says Smith. “We are trying to open closed minds. We hope that people who are hurting can taste and see how good their life could possibly be.”

Relationships that begin today can be the crucial first step towards reclaiming lost lives. We challenge each person to move forward and join the Mission’s long term residential education and training program to completely revamp and renew their lives.

The Mission also offers services and a residential rehabilitation program for women through the Anne Douglas Center. The center is the brainchild and endowment of Anne Douglas, wife of actor Kirk Douglas. Kirk Douglas is, by far, the Mission’s most generous benefactor.
Members of Mission programs, both men and women, have the benefit of extensive professional mental health counseling through the L.A. campus of the Chicago School of Psychology, with additional supportive funding from the Goldwin Foundation.
The Mission is delighted to welcome back Wells Fargo Bank for its tenth year of sponsoring this event. Wells Fargo’s $50,000 donation to the Mission supports year round services to the homeless well beyond today’s holiday meal.

“We at Wells Fargo are proud of our ten-year partnership with the Los Angeles Mission,” said David DiCristofaro, lead region president of Wells Fargo in Greater Los Angeles. “With a regional office based in the downtown area, it is a tremendous honor and privilege for us to volunteer our time to provide meals to our community members. With nearly 200 of our team members consecutively serving at this event, we are once again delighted to provide the Los Angeles Mission with a $50,000 donation.”

Every year, the Los Angeles Mission’s Thanksgiving event is an enormous undertaking. It requires the dedicated efforts of more than 500 staff and volunteers who work for months to get everything planned, set up and ready to go.

Generous and talented chefs include Travis Strickland of Baltaire and Sherry Yard of Helms Bakery among others. These volunteer chefs work closely with the Mission’s own kitchen staff. Together they prepare thousands of pounds of food for this gift of a gourmet meal for the homeless. This means roasting more than a ton of individual turkeys – which are then carved for serving. The menu also includes: 1,800 pounds of stuffing, 60 gallons of turkey gravy, 1,800 pounds of mashed potatoes, along with a ton of turnip and collard greens, 3500 servings of fresh cranberry sauce, with thousands of dinner rolls (donated by King’s Hawaiian) and 600 pumpkin pies (donated by Bonnert’s Slice of Pie).

5th street, the heart of Skid Row, is transformed into an outdoor dining room. Tents provided by Choura Events are set up for food service, foot washing and other giveaways. Tables are decked out with tablecloths and floral creations (designed by Mission graduate Johnnetta Tripplet) to create a happy holiday atmosphere.

Every year, well-known entertainment industry stalwarts, Hollywood celebrities and local political leaders join us to serve the meals. They come back year after year to make new friends and add immeasurably to the festivities. Everyone gives their all to create a feeling of family.

The Los Angeles Christian Health Center provides foot washing and foot health examinations to nearly 400 of the day’s guests. In addition to getting their feet washed, and receiving a new pair of socks, medical professionals do minor procedures to relieve foot problems. Those with more serious health issues are referred to the clinic for free appointments. The health clinic partners with the Mission to provide medical services for area residents. Free flu shots are administered by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

Key business partners and various benevolent organizations contribute much-needed elements to the event. Tarps Plus distributes some 2,000 tarps. Kimberly Vodang, Ms. America International 2011, hands out 1200 blankets. Meanwhile, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians supplies the turkeys. King’s Hawaiian donates the dinner rolls and Bonert’s Slice of Pie donates pies for dessert.

And for the 19th year, students at Suzanne Middle School provide bags of candy that are distributed to the guests. Students collect candy on Halloween, organize it into individual serving bags and Mission volunteers distribute that candy at the event.

“We understand exactly what it takes to pull off an event like this,” says Mission president Smith. “We depend upon the generosity of the people of Los Angeles. We count on loyal support from area companies, individuals and groups that never fail to step up to fund the work we do. They make all the difference,” said Smith. “The need is constantly expanding. We certainly squeeze the most out of every dollar donated by Wells Fargo. We appreciate the loyalty and dedication of the other magnanimous companies and individuals who work with us on this. Their faithful support enables us to do more.
“We are most appreciative of in-kind gifts like food, candy, cutlery, tarps, blankets, even flu shots, and thousands of other items. We certainly appreciate the talents brought to our table by generous people like Timothy Hollingsworth and his top chef volunteers.

“The kindness of strangers blesses what we do every day. This ministry’s work would not be possible without the tremendous help we receive from our city. We want to thank everyone who gives to the Mission and serves to make today possible.”

The Mission was started as a soup kitchen for depression era men in 1936 – 80 years ago. The men who frequented the Mission back then would be genuinely surprised by the quality of the gourmet meals being served this Thanksgiving. The Mission still serves three separate meals every day and provides emergency shelter, but the primary work of the Mission in 2016 is helping men and women to restore their lives and get back to the business of life.

Over the years, thousands have graduated from the program and have gone on to live productive lives off the streets. Each and every year, many Mission program alumni are among the volunteers on hand to serve and help others.


About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,600 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet ( and mobile banking, and has offices in 42 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 269,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 27 on Fortune’s 2016 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. In 2015, Wells Fargo donated $281.3 million to 16,300 nonprofits, ranking No. 3 on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s rankings of the top corporate cash philanthropists. Wells Fargo team members volunteered 1.86 million hours in 2015, serving more than 40,000 nonprofits. Wells Fargo’s corporate social responsibility efforts are focused on three priorities: economic empowerment in underserved communities, environmental sustainability, and advancing diversity and social inclusion. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

About the Los Angeles Mission

For 80 years, the Los Angeles Mission has served the people of Skid Row, providing emergency services such as shelter, food, clothing, as well as professional medical and dental services. In addition, the Los Angeles Mission also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs including education, professional mental health counseling, job training/placement, and transitional housing.
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Photos: Guests at table:
Chef Hollingsworth:
Foot Washing:
Emmy Rossum:
Derek Fisher & Gloria Govan: