Dinners attracting homeless

Local efforts to feed the homeless and the needy are being ramped up, as are plans for the first-ever free Thanksgiving dinner being offered by La Jolla's community of churches.

The holiday offering, at 1 p.m. Nov. 26 at Mary Star of the Sea Parish Hall, is an outgrowth of biweekly dinners to feed the homeless, which have been held at the Girard Avenue church since May.

Volunteers are needed to fix and serve the Thanksgiving meal. Food and funds are also being sought, from traditional holiday trimmings to oven bags for turkeys, large-sized disposal aluminum pans, paper tablecloths and decorations.

Former Councilwoman Toni Atkins is donating 30 turkeys, said Mary Star of the Sea parishioner Tresha Souza, who said she developed the Interfaith Community Supper biweekly program for a variety of reasons, including setting an example of caring for her children.

"What I'm trying to do here is bring kindness and compassion back to the community," she said.

She is also pressing ahead with a vision to continue aiding the Jewel's destitute, perhaps one day with a building dedicated to them providing meals, showers and job help.

"I have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status now," she said.

Her humanitarian effort is bearing fruit in more ways than one.

Souza said, "We're up to 170 people for meals at this church."

She added that the demographic being served extends well beyond the homeless.

"There are people at our dinners who are barely paying their bills, and we're loading them up."

One participant who requested anonymity at the most recent biweekly supper for the needy held on Nov. 3 said that what the church is doing is good.

"They treat people nice, not like they're less than," she added.

Wally Hofmann, community life administrator at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, said the Interfaith Suppers do more than fill stomachs: They give hope.

"These people are in a vicious cycle," he said. "They're (dinners) building relationships, trust, so that they (homeless) may be able to one day make a choice to change their circumstances and accept the help that is available to them.

"Mary Star, St. James by-the-Sea, La Jolla Presbyterian and La Jolla Methodist, we're pooling our resources, working together in a practical, compassionate way," he added.

Mary Star has joined a large and growing network of food banks known as Feeding America, which has a San Diego branch.

"She (Souza) has been partnering with us in the Fresh Rescue program with participating restaurants, like Ralph's which do perishable donations," said Liz Landa, the food bank's agency relations coordinator. "She picks up bread, dairy, meat, produce and frozen foods that would otherwise be wasted, and redistributes them."

Landa said Feeding America San Diego partners with more than 150 nonprofits in the county, supplying them with food from a warehouse distributing more than a million pounds per month to hungry families.

To help

Drop off food or cold-weather clothing for the homeless and needy at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church office at 7669 Girard Ave. Ring the bell to be directed to the parish hall. For more information, call Tresha Souza at (858) 414-8281 or e-mail SoOthersMayEatInc.san.rr.com.

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