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Costa Mesa’s Share Our Selves distributes 1,200 Thanksgiving meals for the hungry, food insecure

CEO Christy Ward  gives a pumpkin pie to a youngster during the drive-up, Thanksgiving meal distribution.
CEO Christy Ward gives a pumpkin pie to a youngster during the drive-up, Thanksgiving meal distribution at the Share Our Selves in Costa Mesa on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

For Costa Mesa’s Share Our Selves — a nonprofit that provides food, rental assistance, medical services and more — Thanksgiving started early this week, as holiday meal kits began making their way Monday into the hands of community members in need.

Drawing from the organization’s well-stocked food pantry, which operates year-round, staff and volunteers are assembling thousands of bags of cookable meals, as well as meals for those who may not have a kitchen to cook in. It’s a tradition that began in 1991 and is still going strong.

The group started bright and early Monday morning and was still passing out bags on Wednesday. Organizers estimate when all is said and done, the meals will help brighten the Thanksgiving holiday for some 1,200 area families.

Executive Director Christy Ward said while the organization is this year celebrating its 50th year — a milestone that would have been marked by public celebrations with donors, sponsors and friends — the coronavirus pandemic has provided members an opportunity to reflect and refocus on the S.O.S. mission.

Don Hoa, left, carefully hands CEO Christy Ward, a chocolate cake.
Don Hoa, left, carefully hands CEO Christy Ward a chocolate cake as they load groceries during the special Thanksgiving meal distribution.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
CEO Christy Ward, in white, and clinical case manager Ian Ashby, right, gather bags of groceries.
CEO Christy Ward, in white, and clinical case manager Ian Ashby, right, gather bags of groceries to accommodate a meal for six, during the Share Our Selves Thanksgiving distribution.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“In some ways, COVID and all the things that are going on really bring your back to your roots and what’s really important,” Ward said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, this year the need is greater.”

Even during the holiday season Share Our Selves keeps its pantry packed for Monday through Friday pickups. Ward said the daily distribution there has increased during the pandemic, from about 200 bags of food per day to around 300.

“It’s open to anyone, and they can come every day,” Ward added. “It really is for anyone — if you say you have a need, we’re going to help you.”

Volunteers started assembling Thanksgiving dinner boxes this week. Meals will be distributed through a drive-through setup on Thanksgiving morning at the Honda Center.

Many families who came out Wednesday morning gratefully accepted bags containing chickens for roasting, dry goods and other Thanksgiving table side dishes, while others opted for bags containing canned pasta, beans and other ready-to-eat items.

Despite curfews and virus precautions, or maybe because of them, Ward said the holiday spirit at this year’s distribution event was especially palpable.

“Every Thanksgiving is meaningful. At the same time, this year feels a little bit more like we really need to be doing what we’re doing,” she said. “We know a lot of people are hurting. And we’re seeing a lot of families who are new to this, so it makes us really cognizant of that.”

Volunteers gather bags of groceries to accommodate a meal for six.
Volunteers gather bags of groceries to accommodate a meal for six.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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