A heavy downpour on Nov. 27 didn’t dampen the spirits at Big Sunday on Melrose Avenue, where thousands of people participated the 8th annual “BIG Thanksgiving Stuffing Event” in which food is donated to community service organizations throughout the city.
Volunteers working under tents sorted cans and boxes of food, placed it in bags and handed it off to representatives of organizations that will in turn distribute the food to clients. Big Sunday offers hundreds of opportunities to help throughout the year, but the Thanksgiving event is the organization’s biggest community service event.
“It’s raining, and Angelenos aren’t supposed to do anything in the rain, and here we have the biggest crowd ever. It’s absolutely wonderful,” Big Sunday executive director David Levinson said. “People are hungry. There are people right here in Los Angeles who don’t have enough to eat, and everybody should be able to enjoy a good Thanksgiving.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined volunteers at the event, welcoming people waiting in line and handing canned food to recipients.
“Thanksgiving for me is about service,” Garcetti said. “For me, it’s making sure that we just don’t judge ourselves by what we have and the love around us, but making sure those who don’t have love around them feel it on a holiday like this.”
Big Sunday, which was founded in 1999 by Levinson as a day of service at Temple of Israel of Hollywood, has grown into one of the largest community service organizations in the city. It started with a single day of service each May, but expanded in 2003. Located at 6111 Melrose Ave., Big Sunday works year-round with social service providers, nonprofits, government agencies and private companies to help people in numerous ways. Other major Big Sunday events include a clothing distribution on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a back-to-school supplies donation at the beginning of the school year.
Levinson said the organization operates with a small staff and relies on volunteers, who came out in droves on the day before Thanksgiving to help. Some were first-time volunteers such as Ryan Doolittle, who dressed in a turkey costume and handed out food.
“My friend has [volunteered] for years and asked me, ‘How would you like to dress up like a turkey?’” Doolittle said. “I said yes because it’s good to give back. I feel like everyone needs a good Thanksgiving, no matter who you are or where you are in the life.”
Other volunteers, such as 19-year-old Aaron Smith, added that it’s important to help less fortunate people in the community.
“It’s such a fun thing to do, and it makes you feel good,” said Smith, who first volunteered at Big Sunday with his family three years ago. “It was something that stuck with me, and now I want to keep helping.”
Big Sunday is seeking volunteers into the holiday season and through the rest of the year, Levinson said. People who want to help should visit bigsunday.com, where more than 2,000 volunteer opportunities are listed.
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