Hundreds Line Up for Thanksgiving Feast

Photo: Volunteers at Trinity United Methodist Church on Bancroft Way served food to more than 275 people on Thanksgiving Day last week.
Anna Hiatt/Staff
Volunteers at Trinity United Methodist Church on Bancroft Way served food to more than 275 people on Thanksgiving Day last week.

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At a church in Southside Berkeley on Thursday afternoon, more than 275 people lined up to receive a free Thanksgiving meal.

"I stuffed myself; I ate, was merry, felt well," said Russell Appling, 44, who is homeless and lives in Berkeley.

The line, usually filled with many of Berkeley's chronically homeless, had an increased number of families, said Sharon Alford, a manager for the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, who helped host the meal at the Trinity United Methodist Church.

"We saw an increase in the number of families here this year," said Alford, who oversaw the meal that served more than 34 turkeys. "It's because of the direct hit of the economy and the foreclosures."

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, 21 percent of Berkeley residents now live below the poverty line, compared to 17.6 percent in Oakland and 12.4 percent statewide.

Terri Light, executive director of the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, said higher food prices and higher rent costs were driving more city residents to seek free food to make ends meet.

"Comparing a year ago to now, there's a 30 percent increase in people coming day to day to get food here," she said.

Although many UC Berkeley students left the city to dine with their families during Thanksgiving, some remained in town to feed others.

"It's the holiday spirit and I felt like giving back. It makes me feel good to give back," said UC Berkeley sophomore Kevin Randeni. "They're the people who need help the most."

Another student said she volunteered to raise her social awareness.

"I feel that Cal students are so into themselves, studying, that they don't know what's outside their bubble," said UC Berkeley sophomore Karen He, a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a community service fraternity. "I just want to learn about other people by stepping into their shoes and getting to know them."

Appling said the volunteers were "gracious."

One volunteer, who owns a catering business that specializes in gourmet coffee, brewed steaming-hot espressos for the attendees as they waited in line outside.

"The big reward is hearing people say, 'Thank you,' " said Bill Choy, 51, who owns Travelin' Joe Espresso in Berkeley. "I dig Thanksgiving, man."


Contact Matthew Peters at [email protected]

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