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Celebrities Help Homeless Celebrate Thanksgiving

Kirk Douglas Serving Thanksgiving (Eve) Meal, 24 Nov 2010

Kirk Douglas Serving Thanksgiving (Eve) Meal, 24 Nov 2010

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Thursday, when they give thanks for the good things in their lives. Some also reach out on Thanksgiving to help the less fortunate. Dozens of Hollywood celebrities have been helping the poor and homeless on this holiday.

It is an annual tradition. The day before Thanksgiving, thousands of homeless men and women, and others from low-income housing near the city center, arrive for a free meal of turkey with the trimmings.

Herb Smith is president of the Los Angeles Mission, a religious charity that helps the poor and homeless. He says the mission is serving 3,500 meals this Thanksgiving.

"It's a portion of the 600,000 meals we serve every year," said Smith. "And it's really a particularly important year because so many people are coming that are not having food. They may be able to pay their rent, but they don't have money to buy food and we're able to help them through the meal service and also through the food boxes that we give away."

The street was blocked to traffic, and it was filled with tables and chairs for the Thanksgiving dinner. Among the two dozen Hollywood stars and others who came to help, the actress Kat Graham of the television series The Vampire Diaries was serving food.

"I spent most of my Thanksgivings growing up feeding the homeless and it's just important, no matter where you are in your life, to give back and really appreciate what you have," said Graham. "And there are so many people here that don't, don't have homes or don't have families and don't have that."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is another who came to help.

"We come every year because it's important to put the giving in Thanksgiving, to acknowledge that there are people who are hurting, and when you have an opportunity to help them in times of need, you ought to take that opportunity every time you can," said Mayor Villaraigosa.

The actor Kirk Douglas was dishing up plates of food, as he does here every Thanksgiving. The Hollywood icon will turn 94 next month, and his speech is partially impaired from a stroke he suffered 14 years ago. But he is active and stays busy with charity work, and has this suggestion on celebrating Thanksgiving.

"Give more, be aware that there are people that need help," said Kirk Douglas.

The actor and his wife, Anne Douglas, have been major supporters of this downtown charity, which has a center for homeless women named in Anne's honor. She says the mission offers hope for desperate men and women.

"Anywhere between the Los Angeles Mission and the Anne Douglas Center, if they need help, they get it from us any time," said Anne Douglas.

David Thomas helped prepare Thanksgiving dinner. He was on the streets himself with a drug and alcohol problem, but in 1999, turned his life around with help from the LA Mission. Today, he is a trained chef and works for the charity, and says he enjoys preparing food on this holiday.

"It makes me feel good inside to see somebody that might not have a meal," said Thomas. "We want to make sure they have a Thanksgiving meal, and it does my heart pleasure that we can do that here."

The downtown mission carries on an ancient Christian tradition on this annual holiday - the washing of feet, with physicians on hand to identify physical problems among the poor and homeless who have come for Thanksgiving dinner.