First person: Thanksgiving without turkey?

A turkey drumstick for Thanksgiving. | Flickr/ D. Sharon Pruitt

A turkey drumstick for Thanksgiving. | Flickr/ D. Sharon Pruitt

As our family ate tacos and cupcakes on the occasion of my grandmother’s 65th birthday last week, my four-year-old brother Bryce—the youngest of the seven of us, four of whom were present—asked her, “Nana, what are we doing for Thanksgiving?”

He had a huge smile on his face while he waited for an answer, but my grandmother, with whom I live in Watts, and my mother and I all looked down in shame. No one wanted to be the one to tell him that we didn’t have anything planned for Thanksgiving. Or that we weren’t certain whether we would be able to come up with something.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of appreciation and celebration. If nothing else, it’s the one day out of the year when my entire family gets together at my grandmother’s house.  Normally, I work nights at LAX and go to school during the day at Long Beach City College, where I study sociology. Thanksgiving is a day off. My six siblings come over from my mom’s place in Lomita. Other relatives from far and wide make a point of getting back, despite how busy they are. [Read more…]

Residents Line Up for Annual Turkey Giveaway

A line of people began forming as early as 8 a.m. on Monday, for a chance to receive a free Thanksgiving meal outside of Jackson Limousines’ fleet yard in South Los Angeles.

E.J. Jackson, founder and president of Jackson Limousine Service, was initially worried because donations were significantly low, but said corporate and local donations picked up before Tuesday’s giveaway.

“Walk by faith not by sight…I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have any doubts, but I knew God would provide,” said Jackson, who has been giving away turkey dinners for the past 30 years.

Volunteers were lined up along a table bagging fresh produce such as broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers and celery. The plastic bags were then placed into a cardboard box with other Thanksgiving items like a box of cornbread mix and stuffing. image

The frozen turkeys were still safely packed away.

“This helps me get in the holiday spirit by helping the less fortunate,” said South L.A. resident, T.J. Falls. “I have two jobs…I don’t mind volunteering because when you’re doing it from the heart you don’t get tired.”

Eve McCraw and Resee Coney were the first in line for Tuesday’s giveaway, arriving at the entrance at 8 a.m.

The two said it has been difficult to find help in South Los Angeles during the holiday season because many places have been cutting back on food donations.

“It’s a blessing,” said Coney.

McCraw said she has been receiving Thanksgiving dinners from Jackson since 2009 and every year, she has seen the crowd grow.

Over the last four years, a growing number of those waiting in line have been from cities outside of South L.A. like San Bernardino and Ontario, according to Fatty Jackson, organizer and nephew of E.J. Jackson.

Fatty continued that he has also seen the line start earlier each year with residents lining up one and even two days before the giveaway.

“It’s been more of a mixed crowd – all nationalities over the last four years. There’s more young mothers, single mothers and senior citizens,” said Fatty.

Jackson’s nephew has been volunteering for the past 17 years and helps ensure the donation process runs smoothly.

He said each year they have been able to speed up the process and prevent any confusion, especially with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s.

While donations have dropped over the last two years, he believes they will still be able to serve about 4,000 people.

He feels the reason the turkey giveaway is able to continue is because of his uncle’s passion for giving back to the community.

“Sometimes people don’t want to give because they don’t know where the money is going to, but with my uncle, you can see where it’s going,” said Jackson.

Turkey for all in South LA

imageE.J. Jackson knew how desperately people would need him this year.

Before dawn he was up, lighting bonfires for the people already in line for his turkey giveaway.

He’s been doing this for 23 years, but this year the need was the worst he’s ever seen.

His volunteers have been working nonstop for the last few days.

“…We had to make up 20,000 boxes, 20,000 turkeys…And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Jodie Fallon’s a volunteer with the Jackson Limousine Dinner Giveaway.

She said last year it pulled in ten thousand people, tops.

Last week, Jackson was worried the donations would fall far short of the need.

But corporate and private donors stepped up to help.

Now he’s emptying two mac-trucks full of frozen turkey.

Since four in the morning, Fallon’s been…

“…Packing and packing and we’re still packing right now…I just had to get a break. I snuck out….but it’s a really good event and it helps a lot of people. See how many people out here?”

One of these people is Dee Brown. I met her when she was getting her friend to help her cut in front of people who’d been waiting in line since last night.

“Are people going to be okay with that? I hope so, I’m just going to slide in and pretend like I was part of the picture”

If you can’t tell by the lack of line etiquette, she’s new here.

She used to work in a hospital but got laid off. Her income’s all dried up.

And finding herself in line for food? It’s…

“Humbling, very humbling.”

She says her unemployment check hardly covers the rent. And everywhere, prices are rising.

“Well times are hard. You know, inflation goes up… Everything went up. You know, just a bag of potato chips is five dollars…But I didn’t notice that until I got laid off. And so when they offer things out here for the community, you know at the time I didn’t need it, but now since I’m laid off, I’m out here just like everybody else.”

Which is exactly why Jackson feels he has to return every year, Turkeys and groceries in hand, the Santa of Thanksgiving.

Angelenos celebrate different Thanksgiving traditions

Listen to the audio story:


Read what different people had to say about their traditions:

My thanksgiving celebration is a fairly traditional one.

I celebrate for a long, long, time.

In Taiwan, we didn’t consider Thanksgiving as a very meaningful holiday, but we do celebrate it.

When I was young, we had kind of a different Thanksgiving. There’d be a lot of American traditional food but also Korean food. But nowadays, we celebrate it more traditional American style, with turkey and mashed potatoes.

Chicken, fruit, salad, everything vegetable.

Maple syrup for salads and stuff, and also they like the cranberries with flavoring.

Sometimes, we just buy chicken from Costco, and enjoy the chicken.

I’m not a good cooker, so I don’t really do anything.

Basically, we just wait for family to come over, or we go to my mom’s house.

The whole family gets together. Each member of the family bakes or cooks something, and brings it to the table, and we prepare the food together, we laugh, we make jokes, we watch football on TV and basically have time to spend together with family members.

Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe

Local company hosts annual Thanksgiving giveaway

Listen to the audio story:


Thousands of people from across the city came for the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway. The music was cranked up loud; most people were dancing and clapping, even those in wheelchairs.

Everyone had a reason to be there. Some were there because times have been hard, and they needed to make a Thanksgiving dinner for their families. Others were there to get a turkey dinner and give it away to those who need it.

Local high school student shares Thanksgiving recipe

By: Tracy Rivera
If you’re one of those people who don’t like the taste of turkey, you may be looking for a different way to cook the big bird. Tracy Rivera, a student in the culinary arts program at Dorsey High School, has a recipe that uses unusual ingredients to add some flavor. Hear her tell the recipe for Pavo en Especias, or Spiced Turkey, from her classroom at the Dorsey culinary kitchen.

Listen to the audio story:


Here is Tracy Rivera’s recipe:

Pavo en Especias
“Spiced Turkey”

1) 16 to 18 lb turkey
2) 4 tbs (tablespoons) of sesame seeds
3) 3 tbs of pumpkin seeds
4) 1 can (326 g) of Planters Mixed Nuts or nuts of your choice
5) 2 oz (ounces) of chocolate
6) 6 garlic cloves
7) 6 black peppercorns
8) 2 large tomatoes
9) 1 large onions
10) 4 dried plums

1) Fabricate the turkey into 10 pieces (or however many you desire), cutting the breast in half.
2) Put the turkey into a heavy duty pot. Cover it with water, salt to taste and simmer.
3) While the turkey is simmering, toast the sesame and pumpkin seeds in a skillet over low heat.
4) Put the seeds, nuts, chocolate, garlic, tomatoes, onions and dried plums in a blender with some of the cooking water. Blend until smooth.
5) Add the mixture to the pot when the turkey is half way cooked. Then, finish cooking until fully cooked.

**You may serve the turkey with fried rice, or tear the turkey into pieces and put the meat between two pieces of bread.

Union Rescue Mission serves thousands at Thanksgiving feast

The Rev. Andy Bales speaks about the Thanksgiving Celebration at the Union Rescue Mission.

When asked what brought him to the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row, the Rev. Andy Bales recalled a sermon he gave 24 years ago.

“I preached a sermon about how important it is to feed people who are hungry and not turn your back on people who are hungry,” said Bales. “If you turn your back on people who are hungry, it’s like turning your back on God himself.

“And I preached that six times, and then on a weekend, I had a man ask me for my lunch and I turned him down. I realized that I was not practicing what I preached.”

So, in the spirit of “practicing what he preached,” Bales went to work at a downtown rescue mission, ultimately ending up at the Union Rescue Mission on San Pedro Street.

imageAnd on Saturday afternoon, Bales joined 300 volunteers in providing a Thanksgiving meal to an estimated 3,500 of Skid Row’s hungry.

The mission’s Thanksgiving Celebration, co-sponsored by the daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful, is its largest food event of the year.

Among event volunteers were cast members from The Bold and the Beautiful, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry and Paris Hilton, who Public Relations Specialist Kitty Davis-Walker said often volunteers at the Union Rescue Mission.

Donald Morris, who attended the event, said that the lines weaving up San Pedro Street were so long that he left and came back.

Gobbling down a piece of pumpkin pie next to Morris, Daljit Singh added, “I’ve enjoyed the food, enjoyed the lunch.”

While dishes ranged from stuffing to greens to macaroni and cheese, the highlight of the meal were 160 turkeys, cooked in 15 turkey fryers between the hours of 1 and 11 a.m.

“We’re trying to welcome everyone who’s on Skid Row, who’s experiencing homelessness and welcome them to our house. We welcome them to our house and welcome them to sit down and have a nice Thanksgiving Dinner,” said Bales.

imageThis year’s celebration differed from past ones in its location. Bales said it is usually held on San Pedro Street, but due to inclement weather, the celebration was moved inside.

“Having to do it inside made us live a little close and see each other a little closer, and so hopefully it built some community today,” he said.

Bales also hopes that the Thanksgiving Celebration will spread awareness about the programs at the Union Rescue Mission. The mission houses men, women and children and offers long-term rehabilitation programs.

The number of people on the streets of Skid Row has decreased from 2,000 to 750, said Bales. But he believes reaching out to the remaining 750 will be a greater challenge.

“They are reluctant to come into a mission. They are suffering physically and mentally and often battling addiction. And so, they need a special way to reach out to them,” said Bales.

For that reason, the mission offers cold water on hot days and extra beds during the winter. It has also partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and the United Way in advocating for the creation of more supportive permanent housing.

And at the Thanksgiving Celebration, it gave the residents of Skid Row a place to escape the rain, grab a meal and maybe more.

“Sometimes, it becomes more than a meal,” said Bales. “They may decide to make a change, come in and enroll in one of our programs and give life one more try.”