There’s no need to be alone and no need to go hungry this Thanksgiving. Free food and companionship will be available to volunteers and diners at a number of events planned in Santa Monica and Venice that offer Thanksgiving meals, celebrations and other opportunities.

Most of the community gatherings take place on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 25th, but OPCC (formerly Ocean Park Community Center) and St. Monica Catholic Church celebrate Wednesday, November 24th.

OPCC, 1616 7th St., Santa Monica, will serve a free boxed hot Thanksgiving lunch of turkey or ham with traditional trimmings, including pumpkin pie, from 9 a.m. until noon on Wednesday, November 24th, according to Cherry Castillo, OPCC Access Center program manager. OPCC provides shelter, showers and other services for low-income youths, adults and families. The center welcomes food, clothing and hygiene donations.

Information, (310) 450-4050.

St. Monica Catholic Church, 725 California Ave., Santa Monica, celebrates its 25th year of feeding the community from 3 until 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 24th.

“This is like a big open house for the community,” says Delis Alejandro, St. Monica’s pastoral associate. “Our big motto is ‘all are welcome’.” Guests begin lining up at the parish auditorium at Eighth Street and California Avenue early Wednesday morning for the free meal.

After dinner, each guest is given a coupon to get clothing from St. Monica’s thrift store.

A free shuttle will take guests to St. Monica Catholic Church beginning at 2:30 p.m. the day of the dinner from the southwest corner of Rose and Fourth Avenues in Venice, next to the public storage facility near St. Joseph Center.

St. Monica Catholic Church will also deliver 40 dinners to homebound Santa Monica residents Wednesday. Donations of blankets and cold weather gear such as raincoats and umbrellas are needed.

Information, (310) 393-9287 ext. 331.

At the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main Street in Santa Monica, all are welcome to join a free Westside community celebration from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Thursday, November 25th.

Since 1982, an interfaith group of volunteers has been serving up fun and food on Thanksgiving Day, according to Lori McCreary, a film producer and one of the organizers.

“People line up the night before,” McCreary says. “We get students, singles, seniors, low-income individuals and families.

“It’s not just a meal but an opportunity for guests to socialize and connect with others they haven’t seen for a year.”

The event draws 2,000 to 3,000 people, and approximately 50 percent are families.

No reservations are needed.

The organizers make it a fun day by setting up an area for children outside the auditorium, according to McCreary. Kids can meet Snow White and other familiar characters, join in a relay race, visit a petting zoo, and get their face painted and their picture taken, all for no charge.

Volunteers will give free haircuts starting at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and McCreary says there’s no need to worry about losing your place in line, as the organizers have “place holders” to hold a guest’s spot.

“Cedars-Sinai [Medical Center] and UCLA volunteers come with a van, and if parents bring their child’s yellow immunization card, the medical volunteers will get the kids up-to-date on their immunizations,” McCreary says. The medical professionals will also give a basic medical and eye exam and discuss dietary habits.

Live bands provide entertainment, with holiday and worship music.

Clothing and blankets are also distributed.

“The whole stage at the auditorium is filled with clothes. Some families get their clothing for a year,” says McCreary.

To make this work, new or used, clean and in good condition clothing and blankets as well as food donations are needed. Monetary gifts can be mailed or dropped off during the Thanksgiving dinner.

Volunteers are needed, especially on Wednesday, to pick up and deliver items, and help with setting up the facility and organizing the food and clothing.

“The whole event is a sum of many parts, families and people who volunteer,” McCreary says. “Some volunteers have been helping for 20 years and now they bring their kids. It’s a community event.

“One year we had 5,500 people show up and we had enough food. Somehow the Lord provides.”

Information, (310) 394-3153.

The Bible Tabernacle, 1761 Washington Way, Venice, will also host a free dinner from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, when volunteers serve about 2,000 people, says Neal Blackledge, Bible Tabernacle director, and it’s open to anyone.

Information, (310) 821-6116.

Fred Deni, owner of the restaurant Back on Broadway, partners with the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Senior Recreation Center to host a dinner on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25th, for seniors ages 50 and over, according to Anita Ybarra, City of Santa Monica senior recreation center’s principal community services supervisor.

For $2, seniors will receive a full turkey dinner with all the fixings and dessert. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the senior center at 1450 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica.

Limited seating is available at the 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. mealtimes.

“It’s a welcoming and festive environment,” Ybarra says.

Information, (310) 458-8644.

St. Joseph Center, 204 Hampton Drive, Venice, is organizing several Thanksgiving events for its homeless and low-income clients. The center depends on volunteers from the community to help make its charity efforts a success. On November 23rd, members of the L.A. Clippers organization helped serve turkey dinners with all the trimmings to homeless men, women and children at the Bread & Roses Cafe in the morning and distributed turkeys to clients at the family center in the afternoon. The National Charity League’s Ticktockers provided a potluck dinner at the Infant Toddler Development Center from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

St. Joseph’s center is looking for volunteers to serve meals, donate turkeys, serving meals, and providing clothing or party supplies.

Julie Kirst can be reached at:

jkmailtalk@yahoo.com

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