When I was a kid, Thanksgivings were never a big deal. There was never that much to be thankful for. We were so poor, our Thanksgiving dinners were made only from whatever food other people gave us.
But it wasn’t just Thanksgivings that were hard. We had so little money, we rarely lived in the same place for more than a year. We often moved from homeless shelter to homeless shelter. The few clothes we owned, we had to wash in the shower because we couldn’t afford a washer. I didn’t have many friends because I dressed so poorly.
I also grew up around a lot of violence. I often watched my mom’s boyfriends beat her. Sometimes they threatened to kill me. And a lot of other kids teased me for being fat.
I grew up embarrassed and angry, and I took it out on the world. I got in fights, I threatened teachers, and I robbed people for money. The only things that made me feel better were weed and meth. I was completely hooked by the age of 15 — and my only ambition was finding my next high. By the time I was 20, I was so angry and lost, I lived like a dog.
But then I ended up in a different shelter — Union Rescue Mission.
That decision saved my life. It saved me from drugs. It reconnected me to God and faith in Jesus Christ. It gave me structure to do something with my life. And the program helped me face all the pain of my childhood and all the ways I’d messed up. Talking about that stuff really hurt. But I had to do it. And when I did, I felt all my old anger slip away. And I experienced joy for the first time. First, Rosie Perez, who works at the Mission, befriended me at a time I thought I had nobody. Then Alex Cornejo, their Volunteer Manager, became my friend. I immediately saw something in Alex I wanted — joy. He was the one who persuaded me to join their Christian Life Discipleship Program.
I spent last Thanksgiving at the Mission, and I helped cook several hundred turkeys for all the guests who came here that day. It was one of the most amazing days of my life. I saw thousands of people sitting at tables, eating good food and enjoying one another. And I learned something. Thanksgiving wasn’t about me and what I didn’t have. It was about giving joy to someone else.
So this Thanksgiving, that’s what I’m thankful for.
Click here to watch Alejandro’s story in our latest “Stories From Skid Row” Video!
All year-round at Union Rescue Mission, your gifts offer hurting souls safe shelter, nutritious meals, long-term care — and even the help they need to find their way home. Thank you!
But right now, our busiest time of year, we’re experiencing an unprecedented food crisis, due to California’s ongoing drought and a rapid decline in food donations. We need your help!
Your gift of $28.92 will provide 12 holiday meals!
It still costs just $2.41 to provide a holiday meal to a hungry man, woman, or child. This season, we expect to serve more than 170,000 meals. Your gift of $28.92 will help feed 12 people, $57.84 will help feed 24 people, or any amount you can send will help.
So please give generously. Thank you! To put your gift to work even faster, go to
Notes From Andy
An Honored Place at the Table
Alejandro has been through a lot in his short life — far too much. When he came to Union Rescue Mission, he was angry, lost, and desperate for some place to belong. But then some of our folks took him under their wings, loved him, and adopted him as “family.” Now, he’s the most likable young man you’ll ever meet.
I think his description of what happened last Thanksgiving says it all. For the first time, he experienced a real “family” Thanksgiving. And he learned the joy of giving. That’s what our Thanksgiving celebrations are all about here at Union Rescue Mission. We welcome thousands of people from Skid Row into our “home” and treat them like honored guests. We feed them good food, love them, and cherish them — just like we do with our own families at home. Just like you treat your family.
In fact, it’s what we strive for every day — thanks to generous family like you. Just as there’s an honored place at our table for the precious folks on Skid Row, there’s a special place for you, too. Thank you!