Giving thanks while giving help

The Malibu United Methodist Church and other community leaders and members hosted a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless and those in need on Thanksgiving last year. William McGarry/ TMT

Malibu community members and organizations organize dinners and food programs for those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday season.

By Laila Kearney / Special to The Malibu Times

For many, Thanksgiving is a day unquestionably dedicated to elaborate meals, family and celebration. Often overlooked are those without food, family or much of a reason to celebrate. Stepping in to fill that void are several philanthropic organizations in Malibu that are working to combat the hunger crises affecting the underprivileged.

Among those contributing to a more humanitarian holiday in Malibu are the Malibu Rotary Club, Children Helping Poor and Homeless People, and the Malibu community at large by donating time, food and organizing events.

Students from Our Lady of Malibu and their families will help low-income families by participating in “Thanksgiving in a Box.” The program is one of 13 designed by co-director of CHPHP Christine Schanes, who said that each program is designed for young people to do.

She describes the organization as an educational outreach program conducted by children and teens with adult advisors. CHPHP has also worked with other schools in Malibu including Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, Malibu High School and Webster Elementary School.

“Our goal is to help end hunger, poverty, and homelessness,” she said about the 19-year-old organization that was started by Schanes, her two children and husband Ron Taylor, who was once homeless himself. The organization helps the poor and homeless throughout the year.

As Schanes sees it, people are more likely to volunteer during the holidays.

“Feelings of good will and compassion rise high at those times,” she said about the success of “Thanksgiving in a Box.”

“The basket or box truly goes beyond [one] day,” she explained. “It’s a way to help a family for a longer period of time.”

The Thanksgiving boxes specifically exclude fresh food, Schanes said. The unprepared meals are intended to last for a week. They allow recipients to choose a main course by including a $15 to $20 grocery store coupon.

“Our Lady of Malibu’s families put together boxes and some of them are quite elaborate,” Schanes said, adding that certain families include such niceties as a bottle of wine.

Instead of Spam and ham sandwiches, Schanes said the program enables very low-income families to enjoy meals they could not otherwise afford.

“‘Thanksgiving in a Box’ is an excuse to provide groceries for people,” she said. “It’s so simple; it’s silly not to do it.”

Malibu’s United Methodist Church is also helping those in need by hosting a dinner.

“The community really puts it on [the dinner], we just provide a facility,” said Rev. Floyd R. McKeithen.

This is the ninth year that co-founder Diane Welch, along with Janet Ettenger, has organized the dinner, which takes place on Thanksgiving.

Prepared, cooked food is delivered to the church in the morning. Contributors can buy or make the meals, Welch said. Volunteers serve day laborers, people without shelter and Camp Vernon Kilpatrick youth, among others, she said. “What’s nice about the dinner is not just feeding the needy, but also for the community of Malibu to be of service,” Welch said. “Everyone is absolutely willing [to help] in every way.

“We have kids from Boy Scouts to youth groups that decorate, bring personal care items and entertain.”

Always looking for new guests to serve, Welch invited a group of South Central youths without families to this year’s dinner for the first time. They and all guests will receive entertainment, a traditional Thanksgiving meal and a personal care bag with toothbrushes, sun block, moisturizer and other items. “Last year we served over 200 [people],” Welch said, expecting about the same number of people or more this time.

The Malibu Rotary Club and Standing on Stone Ministries, a group that serves the homeless of Malibu, are coordinating a holiday dinner for the homeless, Rotary Club member Margo Neal said. The Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless will take place at Webster Elementary School on Thursday, Nov. 17.

“There are a lot of [homeless] people they work with in Malibu who are not always visible. But they’re there,” Neal said about S.O.S.

Info about volunteering or making a donation can be obtained by contacting the following organizations: CHPHP: 800.333.4349,; S.O.S: 818.880.6372; Malibu United Methodist Church: 310.457.7505