With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the city of Davis is trying its best to ensure that all people in the community receive the bountiful Thanksgiving feast that Americans dream of all year long.
Davis Community Meals (DCM), an organization designed to ensure that low-income and homeless members living in the city of Davis are fed on a regular basis, is currently preparing for its 12th annual Thanksgiving meal for the local underserved community.
DCM provides multiple services to the homeless and low-income persons living in Davis and the surrounding communities since its start in 1991. In addition to providing food assistance, DCM offers clothing, housing, school-supplies, counseling and medical care to those unable to obtain these resources on their own.
“It’s very rewarding,” said DCM executive director Bill Pride. “I think knowing that you’ve got folks with not a lot of family or friends, [celebrating] a holiday with them and having them come on Thanksgiving and get a nice meal and mingle and socialize with the folks — knowing they had a good time is certainly a very fulfilling thing.”
Pride, who has worked with the organization since 1993 and transitioned into his current leadership role in 2001, works with the organization to serve meals three times a week at The Episcopal Church of St. Martin.
“Right now we’re doing between 600 and 700 meals a month,” Pride said. “Last year we served around 500 different individuals who came to the meals — mainly women and children. It’s been pretty steady in the last couple of years.”
DCM receives a lot of help from volunteers, mainly from but not limited to church groups, service organizations, fraternities and sororities. Many UC Davis clubs are also involved in preparing the meals, including Health and Education Leading to Prevention (HELP) and Circle K, both of which have been volunteering at DCM regularly for several years.
Fourth-year sociology major and HELP president Shadd Cabalatungan has been involved in DCM for over three years and plans on continuing her participation in issues related to homelessness after her graduation as well. The HELP club hosts two weekly soup kitchens that run every Monday and Thursday.
“Volunteering in the soup kitchens offers me a new perspective into my own life,” Cabalatungan said in an email interview. “As a student, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed with midterms and other school-related issues. Volunteering at the meals serves as an outlet where I can de-stress while serving others in my community at the same time. Volunteering at the shelter gives me a sense of humility and appreciation for what I have in my life.”
HELP’s eight-year involvement with DCM serves as just one example of UC Davis students giving back to the local community. Another Davis-based club, Circle K, is active in volunteering with the organization as well.
“We work with Davis Community Meals once a month,” said third-year animal science major and Circle K vice president Nina Chu. “Soup kitchen events in general give you the ability to make a difference in a person’s life in that moment. Being able to do that is amazing.”
Preparations for DCM’s annual Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 27 from 2 to 3 p.m. at St. Martin’s have begun, and Pride is expecting to see between 110 and 125 people this year.
“We usually get our largest attendance of the year,” Pride said. “It’s a pretty good-sized event. I get lots of volunteers and a professional chef that comes in and helps put together a pretty fabulous meal for the folks.”
Both clubs, HELP and Circle K, agree that working with DCM is a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.
“When I go to these soup kitchen events, there’s this one guy who always comes every week. He always comes a little later, so I save food for him. I learned his name, and he’s always so happy to see me and asks me all these questions about how I’m doing and how my week was,” Chu said. “These people aren’t any different, they’re still people. They just have a harder time getting the things they need. Being able to help people in that way and getting to know them on a semi-personal level, that’s really cool.”
Homelessness is more a result of lack of family ties than the stereotypical idea of drug and alcohol abuse, Cabalatungan said.
“The Davis community and student volunteers make a tremendous impact in these individuals’ lives simply by listening to their stories and offering support,” Cabalatungan said. “One comment from a guest that I will never forget was, ‘I may not have shelter, but I’m not homeless.’”