NDNU’s 16th Annual “Thanksgiving in the Park”

Belmont, CA, November 18, 2008 — This Thanksgiving, families and friends across the nation will share a meal with one other. For a group of about 50 students from Notre Dame de Namur University, the holiday will be a new lesson in sharing, when they go to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to share a meal with the city’s homeless.

This will be the 16th year that NDNU students, faculty, and staff have chosen to share their Thanksgiving meal with the homeless, rather than with their families. “We don’t feed the homeless; we are sharing lunch with them,” says Cheryl Joseph, NDNU Sociology professor, and an organizer of this activity.

The “event” is simple: Joseph and the students set up a picnic area near the panhandle section of the park between Oak and Haight Streets and then offer to share food and conversation. She said she expects between 350 to 400 of the homeless who live in the area to come to the event. “We usually see different faces every year, but we get a few regulars,” says Joseph. “They say there are many places they can go just for the meal, but they wait for us because they want to sit down and talk.

“It’s meaningful for the students, who often bring their friends and family along to share in the experience, as well as for the homeless,” Joseph added. “In fact, this Thanksgiving meal began as an opportunity for students staying on campus to have a meaningful day, rather than spending Turkey Day alone.”

NDNU students and friends can help in another way, by preparing the meal that will bring the homeless and students together. Students, staff, faculty, and administrators assemble turkey sandwiches and pack up pumpkin pies on the two evenings before Thanksgiving. This food is donated by local merchants, including Safeway, Trader Joes, and Costco. Senator Leland Yee provides the turkeys.

In the last three years, VET SOS (Veterinary Street Outreach Services) has also gone to the park with the NDNU group, providing medical care, pet food, and accessories, such as collars and toys, to pets living with the homeless.