Special to Belmont Patch: (The article below was written by Jason Lawrence, an NDNU student and an intern in the NDNU Communications office)
Approximately 250 men, women, children, and entire families of San Francisco’s homeless community shared a lunch with volunteers from Notre Dame de Namur University at the 19th annual "Thanksgiving in the Park" yesterday at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Thanksgiving in the Park is an event that allows the NDNU community to come together to share a Thanksgiving meal with those who are less fortunate. The event is sponsored by NDNU's Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement, which handled the collection and preparation of donations from the campus and surrounding community. Volunteers spend two evenings preparing hundreds of turkey and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
After a night of rain, the clouds parted for the sun and blue sky at 11 a.m., as the volunteers began to lay out the sandwiches, bottles of water, toiletries and other supplies. They covered the soggy ground with tarps and handed each of the Golden Gate Park residents a plastic bag along with the invitation to “take as much food as they wanted.” Food, drinks and other supplie were donated and prepared by members of the NDNU community as well as local businesses.
"We are here to share foodand socialize, not to give it out like charity; we have also found that it is important for the homeless to know that they can get care for their companion animals in a safe environment. So that’s what we try to provide," said Cheryl Joseph, professor of sociology and co-director of the Dorothy Stang Center.
VET SOS, providing veterinary services, pet food, and accessories such as dog collars, has a fantastic relationship with the homeless population and was popular with the crowd. The companion pets recieved food, care, and training from the VET SOS volunteers.
“This is my first year coming here and I really appreciate everything that they have gone through for us,” said Sammy, a San Francisco native, who lives in the park.
There was a slight increase in this year’s event; over homeless were served, but Josh Aguirre, a senior sociology major, said he would rather see the number of homeless in the city go down. On the holiday known so well for food, the key ingredient to this event was the people.
“It is really a moving experience to be here and help those in need on a day that we all take for granted with our families,” said John Dinh, a Junior Political Science major.