Los Angeles' Soup Kitchens Overwhelmed by Thanksgiving Volunteers

November 27, 2013

Want to volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner on skid row? Take a number — for next year.

Volunteer sign-ups at several downtown shelters closed in late September or October. During the final days before the holiday, coordinators were turning away up to 50 callers a day — some of whom insisted they would show up Thanksgiving Day, with or without an invitation.

"It's like getting a concert ticket," Midnight Mission spokeswoman Mai Lee said. "You have to sign up as soon as it's posted."

For some of the 1,000 or more volunteers who will help with the Thanksgiving meals, serving on skid row is a family tradition going back generations. Corporate sponsors take some of the slots for their employees; schools with a longtime volunteer commitment get others.

When shelters hit their holiday volunteer limit, they encourage those they turn away to consider helping at other times of the year.

New volunteers have been moved by the growing numbers of people without homes in Los Angeles County — more than 57,000 — in the wake of the Great Recession, organizers said. The Midnight Mission is on track to serve more meals in 2013 than in any year since the 1930s, organizers said.

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