What started as the brainchild of a teenager is now impacting hundreds of those in need in Santa Monica this Thanksgiving. This year marks the second "Give Thanks and Gobble," a turkey dinner started by 18-year-old Skye Montgomery originally as a Girl Scout project.
Montgomery, 18, who volunteered with her grandparents at the Ocean Park Community Center, or OPCC, as a child, immediately thought of helping the people the center assists.
“It’s such a great thing to do around the holidays,” Montgomery said. “It feels great. They’re very appreciative of everything. You can see it on their faces.”
This year about 150 people showed up for the Thanksgiving event, and Montgomery was able to raise $60,000 for OPCC, twice as much as she did last year. The money will help fund the “Shwashlock” program, or Showers, Washers and Lockers which helps provide basic hygiene necessities for the homeless.
Robin Ransom was one of the people who was glad to be a part of Saturday’s event. Ransom said it was truly something for which to be thankful.
“It’s nice they do this for us,” she said. “I was homeless last year. It’s important for the homeless to be around each other. This is our family. It makes us feel like family.”
She said it is also important to her that people’s perceptions of the homeless change.
“When people donate, they don’t understand,” Ransom said. “Everybody’s that homeless doesn’t look homeless. People stereotype the homeless, and they shouldn’t.”
Bonnie Johnstone, one of this year’s volunteers, was also glad to participate.
“I want to give back and pay it forward because I’ve been helped,” she said. “It’s a small way to express my gratitude.”
Actress Marcia Cross said watching Montgomery and her success at last year’s event made her want to become a part of this year’s celebration by co-hosting it.
“Anytime we have a chance to help each other and give thanks, I think it’s really important to give back,” Cross said.
Cross also said seeing a teenager spearhead such an undertaking has been an inspiration.
“I think we have an incredible force of young people who can do incredible things,” Cross said.
While Montgomery, alongside her mother, helped serve up turkey, stuffing and the other Thanksgiving delicacies, including macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, other volunteers also made it a family affair.
Beverly Hills resident Kimberly Marciano had her two sons, Nicolai and Grayson, in tow. Marciano describes herself as a big supporter of OPCC.
"I think they do incredible work," she said. "We're just happy to be here."
Fifty-five people live in OPCC’s facility, according to Executive Director John Maceri. The organization focuses on helping a variety of people, including at-risk youth and the mentally ill, he said.
In addition to providing a holiday meal and a sense of community for the homeless this holiday season, Ransom wants people realize, especially in light of Hurricane Sandy, that no one should take having a home for granted.
“I think with a lot of people losing their homes... I think people can understand more about being homeless,” Ransom said. “It can happen to anybody in the blink of an eye.”