Penn Serves LA Serves Thanksgiving Meals to the Homeless in Downtown LA

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

It is difficult to imagine that in 1944 Fred Jordan came to Skid Row and found hungry people living in boxes with their meager possessions strewn around the asphalt.  Sadly very little has changed in the ensuing years.

But throughout that time the Fred Jordan Mission has been steadfast on Skid Row, “Loving the unloved, feeding the hungry and healing the hurting.”  The Jordan family continues to be involved in running this non-profit, faith-based and educational relief organization.

A large crowd of Penn volunteers of all ages showed up in two shifts on this exceedingly hot and sunny Thanksgiving.  There was no shortage of helpers. Crowds of single guests and families lined up patiently waiting for their meal, while city leaders and clergy spoke and music blasted from a stage.

Penn Serves LA Thanksgiving dinner at Fred Jordan Missions

Penn Serves LA volunteers arrive on Thanksgiving morning ready to help, photo courtesy of Justin Gordon.

Penn Serves LA Thanksgiving Fred Jordan Mission

The early morning crew gathers on an unusually warm Thanksgiving Day in LA. Photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly

The event was planned to create a festive, tasty and embracing Thanksgiving for the poor, the working poor and the homeless, and the Mission was prepared to serve 3000 people at their 73rd annual Street Banquet.

Penn Serves LA serves Thanksgiving Dinner at Fred Jordan Mission

Penn Alumni in front of the Fred Jordan Mission in downtown LA. Photo courtesy of Justin Gordon

Penn Serves LA volunteers helped set tables, arrange chairs, serve plates of food, pass out drinks and mingle with the crowds.  Rarely has one seen larger drumsticks or heartier portions of mashed potatoes, and the diners seemed grateful for the wonderful meal and the upbeat atmosphere.

Penn Serves LA Thanksgiving Dinner Fred Jordan Mission

Penn Serves LA volunteers setting up the dinner tables. Photo courtesy of Justin Gordon


Penn Serves LA Thanksgiving Dinner Fred Jordan Mission

Serving Thanksgiving Dinner at Fred Jordan Missions near Skid Row not far from downtown LA. Photo courtesy of Kiera Reilly

Some Penn volunteers helped to pack and hand out sizable bags of produce to guests after they finished their meals.  As the sun reached its peak, tables were cleared and folded up, bags of trash were taken inside the mission, and brooms were at work to leave the streets clean before evening set in.

The Penn volunteers headed back to their cars, home to families for their own Thanksgiving celebrations.  To get to our vehicles, we walked by tents on the sidewalks, various encampments and people returning to their lives on the streets.  Our “work” that day was easy, but one could not help but feel humbled by what we had observed and experienced.

Penn Serves LA Thanksgiving Dinner Fred Jordan Missions

Penn Serves LA volunteers hand out bags of food to guests as they leave after enjoying a Thanksgiving meal. Photo courtesy of Jane Gutman

Upcoming Events

About Penn Serves LA

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

Since our founding in 2012, we have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy a fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents, and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at

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The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Michelle Wattana, C’09 | Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21

Read about our previous events:



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Filed under Jane G., Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

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