Giving thanks, Malibu style


    Thanksgiving is celebrated with an interfaith service, charity lunch and walks along Malibu beaches.

    By Caroline Thomas /Special to The Malibu Times

    As people traveled, some fearfully, to be with family and loved ones, and gathered around tables brimming with food this Thanksgiving, recent tragic events most likely weighed heavily on most minds, making this holiday an especially moving one.

    Malibu residents celebrated that they have each other in good times as well as in bad. And they also helped those less fortunate.

    More than a 100 Malibuites gathered together for the yearly interfaith community Thanksgiving service, which took place at Malibu Presbyterian Church, and were bestowed some good humor. Our Lady of Malibu’s Monsignor John Sheridan relayed a story about a man who was “very blessed … for a Presbyterian.”

    The humor was cathartic for those who also focused on our nation’s recent disaster. “I am thanking God for our country and our basic freedoms,” said Sheridan.

    The service has become a yearly event where many of the clergy from Malibu’s churches and the synagogue gather for a multi-denominational worship.

    Following the patriotic hymn “America the Beautiful,” Rev. Ken Durham from Pepperdine’s Church of Christ spoke about the tragedy and led the congregation in comforting prayer: “In this time of warfare, make us instruments of peace. Where there is despair, let us sow hope. Where there is darkness, let us sow light.”

    Rabbi Judith HaLevy, from the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, said this is her favorite service of the year. “This is an unusual community that is united by a common spirit,” said HaLevy.

    Host Rev. Greg Hughes said, “Especially in times like these, it’s good to be together with friends and colleagues.”

    After the interfaith service, Rev. Larry Peacock headed back to his own church, Malibu United Methodist, where a charity lunch was under way.

    Synagogue member Janet Ettenger and Diane Malecha of Malibu Methodist organized the fifth yearly event, which provides lunch and clothing for members of the Malibu Labor Exchange program and for low-income families and individuals.

    Community input was tremendous with at least 35 volunteers serving meals and more than 100 attending. Local neighborhoods organized collections for clothing, shoes, toys, books and blankets, and all were distributed to those in need.

    The middle school and elementary schools assembled personal care bags that included toothbrushes, sunscreen and other toiletries.

    Malibu students were responsible for organizing the details of the day. Eighth-grader Rosie Stutsman was in charge of assembling the lengthy Thanksgiving buffet and found satisfaction in serving the attendees. Of her third year as a volunteer she said, “I like to help, … it’s a way to give back.”

    Jessica Spinks, 15, said her whole family has contributed for four years running. “Mom cooks and my dad and brother and I are here serving and helping out. We have so much food on our table and we want to do things for others.”

    Many of the lunch guests said attending this event gave them hope and provided them with a feast they could never afford.

    Jonathan Williams started moving around before he turned 20. He has traveled from Texas to Tennessee looking for construction work and staying in motels when he can.

    Labor Exchange worker Eustacio Garcia came from Venice with his five family members, who appreciated the “new” clothing they picked out.

    Dan Lantz, a struggling actor from Chicago, thanked Malecha for the sleeping bag and warm jacket she had set aside for him. He said the event “renews our faith in humanity and gives us hope for the future … but hopefully this will be my last year,” he postured, with hope for a better future.

    One lucky girl took home a bicycle, and even two-year-old Sally Hernandez found a smile after discovering an Elmo doll to call her own.

    Rev. Peacock reflected on the abundance of volunteers, clothing and food: “There is a goodness of heart and this gives people a chance to express it.”

    At the end of daylight hours on Thanksgiving Day, many locals and visitors made their way to the picturesque shores of Malibu.

    There were groups of families and friends lining Zuma Beach for the second of the long weekend’s spectacular sunsets. A few beachgoers were biking or skating, no doubt hoping to work off Thanksgiving calories, but most stood in quiet appreciation of the pink sky and the blue sea.