Dick Van Dyke, Ed Begley Jr. and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were among the famous volunteers who planned to help serve those less fortunate on Christmas Day at the Midnight Mission on Skid Row.
From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the mission was slated to serve a “healthy and hearty holiday meal” to thousands of homeless and underprivileged Southern Californians.
Some volunteers began prepping the meal service well before dawn on Wednesday.
At the same time, the nearly 100-year-old mission on San Pedro Street was hosting “Santa’s Village” for poor and homeless children, where the kids were able to choose from hundreds of brand-new, donated toys.
“We’ve been collecting toys from everywhere from high schools to corporations across Los Angeles,” said Ryan Navales, public affairs coordinator for the mission. ” Our toy room is packed full. It’s a Toys ‘R’ Us in there.”
Some families tell volunteers the event is their Christmas year after year, Navales said.
The event benefits homeless and near-homeless families, he said.
Found in 1914, Midnight Mission served its millionth meal of the year this month for the second year in a row, according to a news release for the event. The “unfathomable milestone” marked the highest number of meals served at the Skid Row institution since the Great Depression, more than seven decades prior, the release stated.
The increase in the number of meals served comes amid a spike in homelessness in Los Angeles, Navales said.
A 15 percent increase in the homeless population in Los Angeles County from 2011 to 2013 defies a national trend showing a decreasing number of homeless Americans, the Los Angeles Times reported in November.
To donate to the Midnight Mission, go to the organization’s website, midnightmission.org, or call 213-624-4601.