Pasadena’s Union Station marks 51 years of Dinner in Park for homeless – this year, pandemic style

To mark the 51st anniversary of Dinner in the Park, Union Station Homeless Services volunteers  serve prepared Thanksgiving meals to Pasadena residents in need on Wednesday, Nov. 24.

In normal years, the organization would host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner served by volunteers in the park, but the ongoing pandemic forced organizers to once again adapt during this year’s annual celebration.

Pies are stacked up to be distributed to the needy at the Union Homeless Services in Pasadena Wednesday, November 24, 2021. 2,800 meals were being served up by the Union Station Homeless Services Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Boxes of turkey dinners are brought out at the Union Homeless Services in Pasadena Wednesday, November 24, 2021. 2,800 meals were being served up by the Union Station Homeless Services Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Frank Van Joolen of Pasadena enjoys a turkey dinner Wednesday, November 24, 2021. Van Joolen was eating one of 2,800 meals served up by the Union Station Homeless Services Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Turkey dinners are packed for delivery at the Union Homeless Services in Pasadena Wednesday, November 24, 2021. 2,800 meals were being served up by the Union Station Homeless Services Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Hot turkey dinners are packaged to be delivered to the needy at the Union Homeless Services in Pasadena Wednesday, November 24, 2021. 2,800 meals were being served up by the Union Station Homeless Services Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Ensuring they followed social distancing and other coronavirus-related precautions, volunteers and event organizers gathered early Wednesday to prepare for the thousands of hungry mouths who arrived hungry and eager to receive pies, turkeys and other Thanksgiving Day staples.

In total, 2,800 individually packaged meals were provided during the event, according to Associate Director of Communications Brenda Lynch.

“Due to COVID, we couldn’t do a traditional Dinner in the Park but we thought what we could do is hand out prepared meals, so this year we prepped 2,800 meals for year those in need could drive or walk up,” Lynch said, mentioning it’s the generosity of the community that allows Union Station Homeless Services to host Dinner in the Park.

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“It is our 51st year,” she said, “and we’ve been able to continue this tradition every single year and be there for our clients and others who need to have friends, support and meals during the holiday season because of those who help make this possible.”

On Christmas, the organization intends to host a toy drive to assist surrounding residents who are struggling to provide for their loved ones this year.

“So if you want to do something with us for Christmas, we’d love for you to be part of our toy drive,” Lynch said. “We look for toys, clothes and everything else that makes the holiday season special for our families.”

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