Volunteers serving Dinner in the Park in a past year held at Pasadena's Central Park. Photo: Union Station Homeless Services.
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It’s the 50th anniversary of Dinner in the Park, a community Thanksgiving event that normally feeds hundreds of people outdoors at Pasadena’s Central Park in Old Town. The event, organized by Union Station Homeless Services, has supplied thousands of holiday meals to people who are hungry, without homes, and to low-income families. This year, due to COVID-19, people won’t be able to enjoy a large scale community gathering in the park, but there will still be Thanksgiving meal distribution, events, and opportunities to be of service with public health orders being observed.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Thanksgiving supply boxes will be distributed from the Adult Center in Pasadena to people who want to cook their meals at home. The boxes will be filled with all the ingredients needed for a delicious meal. It will be a no-contact pickup at the Adult Center, and the service time will be from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, Nov. 25, prepared dinners will be given to people who can’t or don’t wish to cook, and on Thanksgiving Day the Adult Center, Family Center, and Centennial Place will be serving private, festive sit-down dinners for their clients. These events are not open to the public, and limited volunteer roles are available. The service time is from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 “While this year might bring unique methods of celebrating Thanksgiving, there still is one distinct purpose: to feed those in need with a full holiday meal,” Union Station Homeless Services said in a statement

Most years Union Station Homeless Services receives donations to provide meals to upward of 2000 people, but this year they are in need of donations and food items to help them serve Thanksgiving meals to those in need this month.

“Due to unfortunate circumstances, the longtime donor for the frozen turkeys has fallen through and Union Station is now short 250 turkeys,” Union Station said “In addition, they need 300 boxes of Idahoan or Hungry Jack mashed potatoes and 300 boxes of Stove Top stuffing.”

A list of items needed for Dinner in the Park can be found online, as well as a link to an Amazon wish list where items can be purchased for Union Station.

“We’re so grateful for the generosity of our community. People are stepping up and helping us fill our needs,” said Union Station Homeless Service Major Gifts Officer Calvin Chan. “However, we still are in need of turkeys, and Dinner in the Park is less than three weeks away. Turkeys and fixings can be dropped off at 412 S Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105 and monetary gifts can be made online. We’re hoping to meet our goal by Nov 17 to give ample time to defrost the turkeys and prep everything else.”

Donations can be dropped off weekdays by Nov. 17 between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The service also has a variety of volunteer opportunities to make each of their Dinner in the Park programs possible, including cooking, preparation, food sorting, serving and packaging. All activities will follow health and safety protocols.

Union Station is the San Gabriel Valley’s largest and most comprehensive social service agency assisting Pasadena area homeless and very low-income people. Their mission is to help men, women and children rebuild their lives, and end homelessness.

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