Jewish Journal


November 23, 2010

A Very SOVA Thanksgiving


On most Wednesdays, about 60 or 70 people line up outside the food pantry at the Pico-Robertson storefront of SOVA Community Food and Resource Program of Jewish Family Service (JFS). But at 8:45 a.m. on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the line stretched down the block, well beyond Pico Kosher Deli and nearly to the corner of Pico and Robertson – numbering around 200 people, with more still arriving.

They were lined up for a special Thanksgiving giveaway — a bag of groceries in addition to their usual monthly grocery order. On Nov. 18, JFS gave away 1,550 bags of groceries at its three sites, a 25 percent increase over last year’s Thanksgiving distribution.

Volunteers showed up at the Pico-Robertson storefront at 7:30 a.m. to help pack the bags — each included a large roasting chicken (“It feels like bowling ball!” one volunteer said); cranberry sauce; cans of peas, yams and pears; stuffing mix; gravy mix; a large bag of potatoes; and random items from a shelf of food donations. Clients who don’t have kitchens were given ready-to-eat food instead of the chicken.

Joyce Leanse, 80, has been volunteering at SOVA once a week for six years. She usually interviews clients to find out what groceries they need for the month as well as what other social services she might facilitate for them.

For the pre-Thanksgiving giveaway, Leanse packed grocery bags, and by 10 a.m., after two-and-a-half hours of packing, she was ready for a break. But her respite was short-lived, when she was called to bring over more kosher chickens as an observant client came to the pickup window.

There were still about 75 people in line at 11 a.m., with just an hour to go before closing. A security guard continued to hand out numbered tickets to the line, which included every ethnicity, among them Latinos, Russian immigrants and African American single mothers, as well as Orthodox Jews from the neighborhood.

A young Latino woman approached the intake volunteer.

“Hi! Wonderful to see you again,” the volunteer said to the client. “You have four in your family, right? Take this pink number and go to the window to get your food. And have a great Thanksgiving.”

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