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  Plenty to Eat in Richmond on Thanksgiving
November 23, 2011

Nobody should go hungry in Richmond on Thanksgiving. Some of the free feasts that are available include:

  • First United Methodist Church in Point Richmond (I will be there), corner Martinez and West Richmond. Thurs, Nov. 24. There is an optional Inter-Faith Worship Service at 11:30 am, then Community Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings from noon to 2:00 PM.  Everyone is welcome to donate, participate and eat!  Free to all.  See attached letter for more info how to participate >>

If you want to start celebrating early, come to the annual “Turkey Shoot,” a goofy parade that starts at the Plunge at 10:30 and ends at The Spot bar with an annually appended poem and a shot of Wild Turkey followed by a mass “gobble-gobble.”

Salute E Vita Ristorante is serving 300 homeless people in style with celebrity servers. See story below.

The Bay Area Rescue Mission will serve a Thanksgiving meal to all who come to its tent outside the food pantry at 123 Macdonald Ave. from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today.

  • New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, 2100 Roosevelt. More than 500 diners are expected to gather Wednesday at the prominent local church for one of the city’s grandest feasts. A full traditional Thanksgiving meal including turkey, ham, yams and mashed potatoes will be provided for all who show. The feast will be from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. in New Gethsemane’s cafeteria. Everybody is welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving! If you have enough to eat, consider donating  to a food pantry or helping to serve at one of these events.

Chris Treadway: Richmond restaurant reaches out to those in need

By Chris Treadway
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 11/22/2011 07:06:57 PM PST
Updated: 11/22/2011 07:06:57 PM PST

Richmond has its Thanksgiving traditions, such as the Great Banquet hosted by the Bay Area Rescue Mission that will feed all who are hungry in its outdoor tent on Wednesday.
A little less serious tradition is the Wild Turkey Shoot, a beloved parade, poetry and elbow-bending ritual that gets underway at 10:30 a.m. Thursday outside the Richmond Plunge in Point Richmond.
They are being joined this year by a new observance that likewise hopes to become a tradition.
Salute E Vita Ristorante will open its doors on Thursday to serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings to 200 less fortunate people in the community and has enlisted some notable local people to donate their time to do the serving.
The restaurant has been a dining destination at its picturesque setting on the Richmond waterfront at Marina Bay for 19 years, but it is also very much a part of the greater community.
In fact, the idea to set aside the restaurant's Italian menu for a day to feed the needy came when Salute owner Menbere Aklilu and other employees were participating in the annual Harmony Walk to End Hunger held in October by the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program.
"While we were getting ready, Menbere said 'I think this year we should do something special for people in the community who go without,'" recalled Traci McWain, the restaurant's manager. "She thought it would be special if we opened our house and gave people a real dinner."
The sit-down meal will be "a really nice white tablecloth dinner served in appreciation," McWain said. And doing the serving will be local officials and organization representatives, including county Supervisor John Gioia, Police Chief Chris Magnus, Fire Chief Michael Banks and members of his department, Barbara Becnel of the Neighborhood House of North Richmond, Cheryl Maier of Opportunity West and Chevron Richmond refinery manager Nigel Hearne.
Guests were selected through Opportunity West, Neighborhood House, Brighter Beginnings and a local senior organization to reach individuals and families young, old and in between who are in need of a warm meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Jean-Yves Charon of Galaxy Desserts, based nearby, will participate, and goody bags for guests will include items donated by Dosho Shieferan, creator of BoFlex.
Aklilu, who celebrates a decade of owning Salute E Vita Ristorante next year, would like to make the dinner an annual event, McWain said, adding, "The response has been great."
WEST COUNTY NOTES: Another seasonal tradition the weekend after Thanksgiving is the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the historic Point Richmond business district, which is set for 5 p.m. Saturday at Indian Statue Park at Park Place and Washington Avenue.
Come for candy canes, caroling with the choir from First United Methodist Church and holiday cheer. Details: www.pointrichmond.com.

Waterfront restaurant hosts Thanksgiving for homeless

Menbere Aklilu came to the East Bay from Italy in 1995, penniless. Now, she owns a waterfront restaurant on Richmond's Marina Bay and is trying to give back to the community.
By: Stacey Kennelly | November 21, 2011 – 3:19 pm
There’s something about Menbere Aklilu. Maybe it’s the way she calls everyone bella. Maybe it’s the affection she pours onto her friends and customers. Or maybe it’s the way her honest eyes well with tears when she talks about her past, and the fruitfulness of the present.
Whatever it is, she is a woman who is not easy to forget once you’ve met her.
Aklilu is the owner of Salute E Vita Ristorante, an upscale Italian restaurant located on the waterfront in Richmond’s Marina Bay. This Thanksgiving, for the first time, Aklilu, her staff and a number of Richmond’s household names will serve Thanksgiving dinner to 300 homeless and needy individuals from the Richmond community.
“It was in the back of my mind all these years to give back to people who need it,” Aklilu said. “Because, you know, I was one of them.”
Aklilu was born in Ethiopia, where her mother owned a restaurant. She spent much of her life in Rome where she married and became pregnant with her son. But just weeks before she was due, she fled from her abusive husband to a women’s shelter, where she gave birth to her son in 1984.
The two moved to Oakland in 1995 into a public-housing project. She had no papers, car or money, but was soon offered a job by the owners of Salute, whom she impressed with her Italian after coming into the restaurant with a man one night. The job offer would be the first in a series of what Aklilu calls “blessings.”
At first, she was a hostess and made $7 an hour. She was good with people, and made her way up the ladder to assistant manager, and then manager. But when the owners put the restaurant up for sale in the early 2000s, she could not afford it.
It was then that a customer, a man who came into the restaurant nearly every day and was impressed with Aklilu’s customer service, offered to loan her the money. She bought the restaurant, and nearly 10 years later, business is going strong.
“I still can’t believe it,” she said. “Every day, when I wake up, somebody must slap me, I swear. Everything that comes to me, I can’t believe it. Because who am I?”
Aklilu paused, looked out the bay window, and pressed her palms around a steaming pint of tea. Her eyes filled with tears as she described the things she’s done since she became successful to try to give back to her community, including hosting dinners for Richmond girls who do well in school. She also finances tuition for some girls to attend Northern Lights School in Oakland, a private school that caters to kids who would not be able to attend private school otherwise.
For several years, she said, she has wanted to feed the needy, especially around the holidays. But it didn’t happen until October, when Aklilu and her staff were preparing for the Harmony Walk to End Hunger, an annual event hosted by the Greater Resource Interaction Agency in Richmond.
“[Menbere] said, ‘You know, I’ve been wanting to do this for a really long time, and maybe this is the year,” said Salute Manager Traci McWain.
Salute waiters signed up to work for free, and McWain reached out to individuals including Barbara Becnel of the Neighborhood House of North Richmond and Cheryl Maier from Opportunity West, which provides social and welfare services. Police Chief Chris Magnus and West Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia will participate as servers.
When they arrive, guests will be greeted outside by waiters with trays of bruschetta, polenta and other hors d’oeuvres. They’ll be seated in every room of the restaurant—including near fireplaces and ocean-front views—and will be served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with pumpkin soup or salad, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and green beans.
“I can’t wait for them to sit down and have that view. I can’t wait for them to hear, ‘Maam, what can I give you; Sir, what can I bring you?’” she said. “Everybody deserves to feel that way every day, but at least on Thanksgiving Day.”
Jean-Yves Charon of Galaxy Desserts—a business that has received nationwide attention since Oprah Winfrey was turned onto his treats—will supply dessert.
All guests will leave with a goody bag, too, Aklilu said. Women will be sent home with lotions, children with toys, and men with hats and shirts donated from BoFlex inventor Dosho Shieferan.
What is Aklilu most looking forward to?
She paused and covered her face for a moment. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she looked out the window at the bay. Yachts lazily bobbed and the sound of squawking seagulls was faint.
Her response was simple.
“Seeing somebody smiling.”

Chris Treadway: Rescue Mission gears up for Thanksgiving

By Chris Treadway
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 11/17/2011 09:29:46 AM PST
Updated: 11/17/2011 09:29:46 AM PST

A tow truck from AAA showed up Thursday outside the Bay Area Rescue Mission food pantry in Richmond to offer a jump start. The assistance wasn't for a stranded motorist, but for the shelter and the growing number of people it serves.
The truck was delivering 22 turkeys, a needed boost as the Rescue Mission prepares to deliver bags of Thanksgiving groceries to households in extreme need. This is the 10th year AAA has come through with a donation.
Bay Alarm is planning to contribute another 322 turkeys Nov. 21.
The donations don't come a minute too soon as the mission works to meet record demand this year.
"At this point, we've already passed out 1,000 tickets for food bags for Thanksgiving, and we anticipate needing more because we're not going to turn away anyone who has need," said Bill Jones, chief operations and financial officer for the mission.
The tickets were all gone in less than a week, while last year there were still tickets left over two weeks after they were available.
"In nearly 30 years of helping the homeless and impoverished, I have never seen so many desperately needy people," said mission Director John Anderson.
In addition to the food distribution, the Rescue Mission will serve a Thanksgiving meal to all who come to its tent outside the food pantry at 123 Macdonald Ave. from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 23.
Organizers anticipate feeding 1,200 to 1,400 people that day and assisting more than 5,000 men, women and children in all during Thanksgiving week.
"We have a desperate need for additional turkeys," Jones said. "Our two biggest needs are turkeys and canned goods, especially vegetables."
Also high on the list are bread and "some kind of dessert" to include in the bags, he said.
Food donations can be brought to the pantry, and monetary donations can be sent to the Bay Area Rescue Mission at P.O. Box 1112, Richmond, CA 94802.
"We can use any help we can get," Jones said.
For more details, visit www.BayAreaRescue.org or call 510-215-4555.

Season’s feast coming to New Gethsemane Church

(photo by Robert Rogers)
By: Robert Rogers | November 21, 2011 – 2:40 pm

Get involved in your community

More volunteers and people looking to do community service hours are welcome. Call 510-234-0655 or 510-620-9628 if interested.
New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, 2100 Roosevelt
There’s something special about the feast that’s set to happen Wednesday at New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ.
Everybody is welcome.
“It’s beautiful and it’s bountiful,” said Sister Rolland Bigbee, the organizer of the annual day-before-Thanksgiving event. “We are going to feast and give thanks to all.”
More than 500 diners are expected to gather Wednesday at the prominent local church for one of the city’s grandest feasts. A full traditional Thanksgiving meal including turkey, ham, yams and mashed potatoes will be provided for all who show. The feast will be from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. in New Gethsemane’s cafeteria.
The feasting may go on a few ticks past the scheduled close.
“We’ll go as long as people are hungry until everything is gone,” Bigbee said.
The tradition at New Gethsemane began years ago, but has grown drastically of late, Bigbee said, especially after a high-profile shooting brought the church national – but negative – attention.
“Not only have we put the shooting behind us, but in a strange way we actually have grown and become stronger as a church since the shooting.” Bigbee said.
In February 2010, 18-year-old Marcel Buggs interrupted a Sunday service by opening fire in the packed church hall. Buggs targeted young men from North Richmond, whose presence he regarded as infringement on his neighborhood. New Gethsemane is located in Central Richmond.
Two teenage brothers were wounded in the shooting, and a jury in July convicted Buggs of attempted murder and burglary, along with gang enhancements.
In the aftermath, church leaders, members of the congregation, and leaders of nearby churches banded together for a series of marches and rallies against violence.
Less than two years later, the church’s food programs are bigger than ever, and there is no shortage of volunteers. The need in Richmond, which has long struggled with poverty and unemployment, is ever present.
“It’s a diverse group on Thanksgiving,” Bigbee said. “We have a lot of homeless people and a lot of people who are alcoholics, drug addicts. But we also have a lot of families and single parents, working people, with children.”
Church members and volunteers, along with some people completing community service, will spend the day Tuesday in preparation, cooking turkeys and hams, dicing celery and preparing stuffing and other fixings.
Come Wednesday, no one will be left hungry.
“My message to everyone would be come out and eat with us,” Bigbee said. “Let’s all get together.”