The smell of roasted turkey traveled through Los Angeles on Thanksgiving, but the enticing scent was especially strong at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, where volunteers served up more than 1,000 pounds of turkey with all the fixings.
The 12th annual Thanksgiving Day Feed The Hungry Feast fed hundreds of hungry local residents Thursday in need of company and a hot meal under the warm sun. | PHOTOS
Scott Tessler, event founder and head chef/kitchen manager, said he and a group of volunteers had been "roasting turkeys constantly" - from Sunday through Tuesday - to prepare for the temple's feast.
"It's a big production, but we do it because it's a wonderful thing to serve our community. To get a full home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving spreads a lot of warmth and joy. The fact that it's all home-cooked really matters," said Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, senior rabbi at Temple Beth Hillel.
"It's a small way to give back, but it feels good to be able to do it. It's quite a gift."
Vien Duonz of North Hollywood said that his first time at the event with his three friends was quite a treat. While the group of men did plan to spend Thanksgiving dinner with family, they were plenty thankful for the hospitality of the temple.
"They are so kind to us," Duonz said. "It's good food and good attitude here."
Bonnie Goodman, a temple member and volunteer, said that while the event focuses much on feeding the homeless, the temple also serves many low-income seniors and families who may have a roof over their heads but are living paycheck to paycheck.
To put it simply, Mark Singer, co-president of the Temple Beth Hillel Brotherhood, said: "If someone comes through the gates, we feed `em.
Kip Lippman of Van Nuys and Lilia Paniagua of Glendale have a 7-year-old daughter together and said that spending Thanksgiving at the congregation has been a great experience for the whole family.
"I live in an apartment and don't have a house, so I can't throw Thanksgiving there," said Paniagua, adding that the little family she does have are spread about Southern California.
"I'm thankful for the food I'm eating," said 7-year-old Isabella, who was still chewing turkey.
George Brand of North Hollywood, on the other hand, couldn't even find the words for his gratitude. Instead, the 87-year-old simply said, "I can't express myself right now," and continued to enjoy the heaping mound of yams on his plate.
In addition to the Thanksgiving feast, each guest received a "goodie bag" filled with sundry items including food, toiletries and clothing.
Outside of the temple, volunteers also delivered meals to home-bound seniors, women's shelters and others in need of a fresh Thanksgiving meal during the holiday.
"We love the fact that 12 years ago we started preparing meals for 300 people, and while the sad part is that we're now serving more than 1,000 people, we're glad we can keep up because the need is there," Tessler said.
"Watching the faces of the people who come in as well as the faces of the volunteers, it's a wonderful thing."