Giving is, without a doubt, one of the greatest gifts we can experience.  

Together with our community partner, The Pico Union Project (PUP), we experienced the joy of giving to our most vulnerable neighbors in the Pico-Union community during Thanksgiving week.

With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we distributed turkeys and produce for Thanksgiving dinners to over 600 families in need at PUP’s 10th Annual FaithsGiving food drive and resource fair so they could have a memorable holiday dinner.

“We don’t just give food, we give love to our neighbors here,” said Jorge Alvarez, PUP’s long-time volunteer organizer. Alvarez spoke about the community’s evolving needs since joining PUP a decade ago when founder Craig Taubman acquired the building in Valencia Street ㅡ one of the oldest synagogues in Los Angeles.

“People in this community have been learning how to ask for help. Before, there was a sense of distrust or fear, but now they come to us to let us know what they need, and we do what we can to meet their needs but also to show them we care for the people of this community,” Alvarez said. “I think the fact that is a place where everyone is welcome, people get to know each other, and that has helped to reduce gang activity in the area. I see entire families walking in the street. It’s becoming a neighborhood where families feel safer than they used to.”

Leonardo Garcia has lived in this community for over 15 years. He works as a day laborer or “jornalero”, without the stability of a weekly or monthly salary. He said it was worthwhile waiting in line to secure a Thanksgiving meal for his family.

“I have been in line for many hours now, but I think it’s worth it because if I go try to find a job for the day, I may not get any. I would have made the same money to pay for food, but here I get a lot more than what I could have afforded with that money,” Garcia said. 

The line to receive these meals extended around the building, and people waited for over 5 hours to get their turkey, fresh vegetables, bags of cereal, and other essentials such as dental hygiene kits. Marisela, a stay-home mom of two young children, lined up earlier this year as she shared that last year she didn’t get a turkey as they ran out. 

“There’s always a lot of people waiting because these food items, and everything else we get for the kids. It’s a really big help for our families. I’m thankful this time I get a full meal,” she said.

Alvarez noted that these families not only struggle to afford food but there are also only a few supermarkets in the area where they can buy healthy produce and other groceries. That is why PUP distributes free fresh food to the community every Friday. “This is a huge help because instead of spending the money to buy food, they can use it for other necessities, for the kids, or to pay the rent.”

L.A. City Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez joined the event and talked to the people she represents in Pico-Union. She thanked PUP and United Way for supporting one of her district’s most vulnerable, low-income, and densest communities.

“This event brings food directly to this community, it meets people where they are. This is an opportunity for us to give them more access to government, to resources, and to nonprofits that can help meet their needs. People also have access to dental and medical checkups here, so it’s a very holistic event for the community, and it deserves it,” Hernandez said. 

Kevin, a volunteer with AAA, joined to help in the food distribution when he learned through the partnership with United Way L.A. “I’m coming back this year for the second time. I was here last year, and it just feels so good to give back to the community, so here I am again. I know AAA has a major partnership with United Way, and this year, we’re doing a big push for our employees to participate.”

Whitney Brinson, a volunteer representing EY (Ernst & Young LLP), also joined the event along with her brother. “It’s a time to give back, and I think PUP does a great job for the community.” 

Thank you to our corporate partners who donated turkeys and other items and to PUP for hosting this special event to ensure Pico-Union residents had a Happy Thanksgiving dinner and follow its mission of “love your neighbor as you wish to be loved.”

If you want to support our efforts, please visit our ‘Ways to Help’ page to learn how to make a contribution.


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