On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, the Los Angeles Location of the Order of Malta partnered with St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles by organizing an event which served over 500 families. It was a very targeted effort to provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal to families who do not have another way to celebrate this important holiday.
Attendees received 10 pounds of fresh produce, a hygiene kit, a free flu vaccine, and a free turkey or ham. A longstanding benefactor of St. Peter’s church and its sister church, San Conrado, provided the turkeys.
Days before the event, tickets for the turkeys and hams were distributed to centers for abused women and their children, migrant work centers, and local parishes.
Early Tuesday morning, people lined up at St. Peter’s hours before the 10:00 am start time: 50 people waited at 6:00 am, by 7:00 am, over 100 people had joined their ranks. By 9:00 am, the crowd had grown to over 300 people.
Los Angeles members also started early that morning. The Mobile Ministry team deployed at 6:30 am, driving 15 miles to Food Forward, their fresh produce partner, where they loaded 4,505 pounds of fresh produce into the Order of Malta van.
Meanwhile, other Los Angeles members, along with 25 nursing students from Mount St. Mary’s Nursing School, set up tents, tables and chairs for the flu clinic at St. Peter’s.
The van rolled into St. Peter’s at 8:05 am, and the nursing students helped unload the produce and sorted it onto other long tables set up by St. Peter’s. They divided 13 different produce items into areas, then ran a production line filling cloth bags with 10 pounds each of produce.
Residents (doctors) from White Memorial Hospital arrived during the process, and also assisted with the produce bag preparation.
When the turkeys were in place, the produce was bagged, and the flu shot clinic was ready, the event began.
Handicapped people entered from a separate gate and were the first to receive their turkey and produce. Also, people who wanted a flu shot, were directed to the flu shot clinic, run by the resident doctors, and the nursing students. After attendees received their shot, they could collect their turkeys and produce before the rest of the line.
The Order of Malta organized the effort, providing the vaccines, the supplies, and the administrative support.
At the end of the day, members were reminded that it is much easier to provide these services than to use them. Our Lords, the poor and the sick, show us the meaning of dignity, and give us hope.