The genesis of Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1621 when Native Americans and early settlers joined one another for a three-day festival staged to give thanks for a bountiful harvest in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.
From that time on, similar unofficial celebrations continued as the Continental Congress issued proclamations declaring the Colonies to observe several days of gratitude. President George Washington called for a national day of thanks in 1789.
Over the following 65 years, more than 30 states and U.S. territories held Thanksgiving celebrations, and on Oct. 3, 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued an official proclamation that a day of thanksgiving was to be observed in every part of the United States on the last Thursday of November. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt later changed Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November.)
As Americans prepared to mark the passing of 402 years since that first celebration of thanks, staff members of the Burbank-based Home Again L.A. staged their thrid annual evening of gratitude. They were joined for the meal on Nov. 16 by the organization’s board members, volunteers from the Burbank Chapter of National Charity League coordinated by Kathy Sessinghaus and representatives from Burbank’s Gain Federal Credit Union.
It was three years ago that NCL’s senior class of 2022, known as Ticktockers, and their mothers contacted HALA CEO Albert Hernandez. The nonprofit, which helps unhoused families, provides a traditional Thanksgiving meal for those involved with the program.
“That was the first time National Charity League partnered with us to serve our families a Thanksgiving dinner, and it was so well received we decided to make it an annual tradition,” Hernandez said. “This is now their third year working with us and they are the perfect partner because they are volunteer oriented and hands-on.”
Unlike that first Home Again L.A. Thanksgiving dinner that was prepared by the NCL members, this year’s feast was donated by Metropolitan Culinary Services who, on a regular basis, support numerous charities and fundraising organizations throughout Burbank.
As plates were filled, carried to tables, and enjoyed, Hernandez thanked Metropolitan Culinary Services Executive Vice President Steve Mora, the NCL members, Gain employees and everyone who made the gathering of gratefulness a success.
“As thankful as I am to everyone, I am most thankful for you,” Hernandez told the 90-plus attendees representing 34 families. “I am grateful that you reached out to us for help when you needed it,” he continued. “I know how extremely hard it is to pick up a phone and ask for help. This year, I knew how hard it was for people who never thought they would be in need of assistance — people who were impacted by the writers’ and actors’ strike — to admit they needed help. And so this year, my staff and I are thankful for all of you who are with us tonight. We’re thankful that you have given us the opportunity to help you, get to know you, and appreciate you.”
After addressing the diners, Hernandez spoke in more detail about this past year.
“We recently worked with a single mother who is a seamstress in the film industry. She and her child had become homeless due to financial challenges stemming from the strikes,” Hernandez said. “She had no work, no income and didn’t know where to turn. We welcomed her into our program and were able to secure a new apartment for her and her daughter utilizing our rapid rehousing program and will now work alongside her to make certain she achieves stability.”
Established in 2010, Home Again L.A. works with unhoused families and select individuals to help them achieve lasting independence. Partnering with a network of local interfaith congregations and volunteers, they provide safe shelter, meals and support services such as counseling and job readiness.
The nonprofit is now preparing for their “Family HALADay” celebration that will take place next Saturday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Nickelodeon Animation Studios.
Open to those of all ages at no cost, the event will include music, beer tastings, a cornhole tournament, photos with Santa, opportunity drawings, and an appearance by a special guest, World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Rikishi.
While there is no fee to attend the event, registration is required at GiveButter.com/HALACornhole.
You can also be a part of making the holidays bright for the children in the HALA program by dropping off a new unwrapped toy valued at $15 from now through Dec. 24 at Tequilas Burbank, 4310 W. Magnolia Blvd. You are also welcome to join the Home Again Los Angeles staff and other special guests, including local dignitaries and Santa, at Tequilas on Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. for their official 2023 toy drive kick off. Make a text reservation at (818) 516-9250.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.
First published in the November 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.